All weekend you heard about the importance of winning the first game of a playoff series. It is true that the winner of game 1 wins the series about 80% of the time, but I dug a little deeper. In all, I took the last 211 best of 7 NBA playoff series, which goes back 21 years.
170 of the 211 teams that won game 1 went on to win the series, which is 80.6%. I then separated the series into two categories: the first being when the home team wins game 1, the second being when to road team wins game 1. Here is what I found:
In the last 211 best of 7 series the home team won game one 159 times. 140 of those teams won the series (88%).
In the last 211 best of 7 series the road team won game one 52 times. Only 30 of those teams won the series (58%).
What is also important to note is that in the last 211 best of seven series, the team with the home court advantage has won 162 times (77%).
It’s not hard to figure out why these numbers are the way they are. The team with home court is in most cases the better team. The reason why only 19 teams with home court have lost a series after winning game is that you are asking an inferior team to win 4 of the next 6 games. Its hard enough for those teams to win 3 of 6, as you can see by close to half of the road teams losing a series after winning game 1.
So while its just game 1, and it’s a long series, you can argue that the first game is the most important. It sets the tone for the rest of the series.
I also have percentages of what happens in a series after 2 games, and I will post it tomorrow.