Lack of Home Court Advantage in the NBA Bubble

Written by: Scott

Edited by: Lucas 

Visual by: Anushka

If you were one of the many avid basketball fans who were missing their primary source of entertainment during the summer, then you must have been ecstatic when the “Bubble” was created. Said Bubble, based in Disney’s private Orlando resort, would provide the NBA with the facilities and necessary anti-COVID-19 measures to resume their season. This new location, which hosted the remainder of the regular season and will host the entirety of the playoffs, is something unfamiliar to the league and its fans. The Bubble has the players, referees, and lines on the court, but one fundamental element is lost: home court advantage. With home court advantage comes the support of the fans, the minimal travel, and the pride of the franchise’s arena. 

According to the New York Daily times, “home teams” won 61% of games in the Bubble during the remainder of the regular season. This number does not jump off the page due to its similarity to the league average of 60% in the 2018-2019 season. However, there are anomalies in the way certain teams and players performed. 

Take the Philadelphia 76ers who last season won 94% of their games at home (via TeamRankings). In the Bubble, this team that thrives off their colors on the court and the Philly support finished with an underwhelming 4-4 record and were swept in the first round of the playoffs. Although they lost a star player, Ben Simmons, it doesn’t detract from the fact that virtual fans and audio effects were not going to help the 76ers rack up wins.

While the Bubble has bogged down teams like the Sixers, individual players have been able to make a name for themselves since the restart. Without the pressure of a live audience of roughly 15,000 people, average role players were able to break out as stars for their teams. Among the players who fit this bill are TJ Warren and Trey Burke. Added to the list of Iconic player nicknames like “Hoodie Melo,” “Game 6 Klay,” or “Untucked Kyrie” is “Bubble TJ Warren.”

The man was on fire in the 8 seeding games for the Indiana Pacers, averaging nearly 35 points a game. Some may credit this to his development of a 3 point shot over the NBA’s pause, but being able to be in his own mental environment down in Walt Disney’s arena may have been the reason for his rise to stardom. Similarly, Trey Burke went from barely playing any minutes for the Dallas Mavericks in the regular season to a starter and constant contributor. Trey averaged 12 points on 40% from three pointers which is a huge step up from his regular season numbers. His most notable Bubble performance was his crunch time heroics in a game 2 playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers. 

All in all, without a place to call home for the teams and players of the Bubble -except their hotel rooms- certain teams and players were able to emerge to stardom or regress without the support back home. Home Court Advantage is a time-proven factor in playoff games, which is why the higher seed hosts more games in the series. The lack of this crucial element has made this a season like no other, which leads fans to believe it will be a playoffs like no other. Make sure to follow along the Bubble’s playoff action over the next two months.