Game 7 of the NBA Finals is nearly 48 hours away, so the title of this blog may be a bit misleading. But probably not. In the history of the NBA, home teams have won more than 80% of Game 7's in the playoffs, including 13 of 16 in the NBA Finals.
Corey Guenther, Chris Rozek, and I published an analysis of the home-court advantage last year in response to previous work by Roy Baumeister and his colleagues that indicated home teams choke in deciding games of a playoff series.
Simply put, there is no place like home. Although I would love to see a close competitive Game 7 (and a Celtics win), history tells us the Lakers are likely to come out on top.
Why is the home court advantage so powerful? Below is a list of contributing factors:
1) Travel that wears an opposing team down,
2) Supportive crowd for the home team,
3) Referee bias (intentional or unintentional), and
4) Familiarity of surroundings.
Can the Celtics pull off an upset victory in Game 7? Of course they can. Will they? Don't bet on it. And if the Lakers are on the victory podium, explaining their championship as the result of hard work, teamwork, drive, talent, players, coaches, and Laker tradition, be prepared for them to omit one critical factor behind their success: Home Court Advantage.
Baumeister, R. F. and Steinhilber, A. (1984) Paradoxical effects of supportive audiences on performance under pressure: The home field disadvantage in sports championships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 47 , pp. 85-93.
Tauer, J.M., Guenther, C.L., & Rozek, C. (2009). Is there a home choke in decisive playoff basketball games? Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21, 148-162.