Aug 17, 2020 - Sports

Bubbles strip top seeds of home-team advantage as playoffs begin

People playing hockey.
A Calgary Flames "home" game on Sunday. Photo: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Without true home-court/ice advantage inside the NBA and NHL bubbles, the Lakers, Bucks, Golden Knights and Flyers earned arguably the least valuable No. 1 seeds ever.

Yes, but: Both leagues are still trying to replicate the home team experience, using in-game music coordinators and other elements to make the bubbles feel like homes away from home.

By the numbers: NBA "home" teams have been slightly better in the bubble (.562 winning percentage, up from .551 pre-shutdown), while NHL "home" teams have been slightly worse (.500 winning percentage, down from .533).

What they're saying: "Each team submitted warm-up music and walk-in music, and we'll incorporate certain defensive chants and songs for timeouts," says Courtney Benjamin (aka DJ M.I.L.), one of the NBA bubble's four music coordinators.

  • The NHL is doing similar things inside their arenas, while also ensuring that rules like last change — wherein the home team gets to respond to the away team's line change — remain in play.

Between the lines: Given the unprecedented nature of the bubbles, oddsmakers and bettors took a "wait-and-see" approach to the restart, gradually adjusting their lines and tactics. Now, the intensity of the postseason — paired with the lack of a true home atmosphere — presents a new challenge.

"It's a unique time, which can be viewed as either an opportunity or a headache. Most professional bettors view it as opportunity, but there's just so much uncertainty ... and only so much prep work you can do. You learn a bit more about these new situations day by day."
— Ben Fawkes, VP of digital content at VSiN

Today's slate: The NBA postseason begins with four games on ESPN, while the NHL playoffs continue with four games on NBCSN.

  • NBA: No. 6 Jazz at No. 3 Nuggets (1:30pm ET); No. 7 Nets at No. 2 Raptors (4pm); No. 6 76ers at No. 3 Celtics (6:30pm); No. 7 Mavs at No. 2 Clippers (9pm).
  • NHL: No. 2 Lightning at No. 7 Blue Jackets, 3pm ET (TB leads 2-1); No. 2 Avalanche at No. 7 Coyotes, 5:30pm (COL leads 2-1); No. 4 Bruins at No. 5 Hurricanes, 8pm (BOS leads 2-1); No. 4 Blues at No. 5 Canucks, 10:30pm (VAN leads 2-1).
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