Home-Court Advantage Does Not Exist in 2021 NBA Playoffs

The sample size is small, but home teams have only been .500 in the NBA postseason thus far

Home fans cheering during a Trail Blazers vs Nuggets NBA game
Home fans cheer behind Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Steph Chambers/Getty

Fans haven’t been behaving themselves, but they are back in the building for the 2021 edition of the NBA playoffs after the 2020 version of the postseason took place in a “bubble” in Florida.

And although studies have shown that the opposite should be the case, fans seem to be providing as much home-court advantage to their teams in 2021 as they did in 2020: none.

The 32-game sample size is small, but home teams have only been playing .500 ball in the NBA postseason thus far, with a collective 16-16 record with the second half of most first-round series well underway.

For much of the 1990s and a good portion of the 2000s, home teams won more than 70% of the time in the NBA playoffs. That percentage dipped in the 2010s and fell below 60% in some years, but never all the way down to where it currently sits.

One reason home-court advantage seems to have disappeared this season is that, in many cases, there are fewer fans in the building due to COVID-19 restrictions leading to less raucous crowds and a reduced ability to intimidate opposing players. Another more likely reason for the lack of home-court advantage this postseason is that injuries to key players have helped level the playing field in many first-round series across the NBA.

Clearly, the advantage could still tilt back toward the home teams in later rounds as the playoffs are really just getting started. If it doesn’t, it could be anyone’s game in the 2021 postseason.

“The sudden diminishment of home-court advantage could wreak unexpected effects on this postseason,” according to The Ringer. “Game 7s might not favor the home team as much as usual, for instance, and the presumed powerhouse clash between the Nets and Bucks in the second round might not hinge on the Nets’ home-court advantage. The Lakers could win the title without hosting Game 1 in any round.”

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