The Importance of NBA Game 6 to Winning Game 7 (Part 1)

There are going to be two Game 7s played in the second round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. In one, we have the chance to see the home team run the table for just the sixth time since 2003, as the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have each won all three of their games at home, including a win by the Mavericks to force a Game 7 on the road.

In the other, the Boston Celtics survived an elimination Game 6 in Milwaukee and now get to come home to Boston to try and win a Game 7 in a series in which the road team has won four of the six games so far.

Each team is 2-1 on the other team’s floor, so do the Bucks have the edge?

Let’s once again use 2003 as our benchmark, the year the first round went to best-of-seven, and a starting point that, including this season, gives us a 20-year (well, OK, 19-year, the COVID bubble doesn’t count because neutral-site games don’t tell us anything useful) sample size, and lets us cover a pretty big Game 7 sample.

If you’ve read the two-parters on this site about the road team drawing first blood in the Finals (click or tap for Part 1 and again for Part 2) or the importance of Game 3 from last week (click or tap on Part 1 and once more for Part 2), you know how this works. In this case, we’re looking at just one game, a Game 7, so the home team is of course going to have a huge edge, but does it matter who wins Game 6? Is surviving elimination on the road down 3-2 more valuable than winning Game 6 on your home floor and then having to travel? Let’s look through the ages and find out.

Since this is going to get real long real fast, we’ll do 2003-2012 in this Part 1 and save 2013-2022 for tomorrow.


First Round: Portland won Game 6 at home, Dallas won Game 7 at home.

Here’s our first data point for the dog winning Game 6; they lost the series. Curiously, one of the teams scored 103 points in four of the seven games. They were 2-2 in such contests, with both wins ending 103-99. Weird.

Dogs 0-1 when winning Game 6 at home.

First Round: Detroit won Game 6 on the road and Game 7 at home.

The Pistons eliminated the Orlando Magic, who blew a 3-1 series lead and lost Game 5 in Detroit 98-67. Doc Rivers was the coach of that Magic squad as the seed was planted for his “terrible playoff coach” reputation that seems to come up every time you look deeply at playoff history in the past 20 years.

Dogs 0-1 when losing Game 6 at home.

Second Round: Sacramento won Game 6 at home, Dallas won Game 7 at home.

How about the Mavericks getting it done at home in Game 7 twice in as many rounds? They would go on to lose to eventual champion San Antonio, oddly enough by losing an elimination Game 6 at home as the 3 seed against the 1, but they stamped their mark on history with two data points in this study.

Dogs 0-2 when winning Game 6 at home and 0-3 overall in Game 7, an interesting stat in its own right.


First Round: New Orleans won Game 6 at home, Miami won Game 7 at home.

This is one of the five series since 2003 where the home team won all seven games. As such, the higher seed has now won four straight Game 7s overall, three of which involved losing a potential series-clincher on the other guys’ floor.

Dogs 0-3 when winning Game 6 at home and 0-4 overall.

Second Round: Sacramento won Game 6 at home, Minnesota won Game 7 at home.

This was the high-water mark for Kevin Garnett in Minnesota and would be the franchise’s last playoff appearance until 2018. Meanwhile, Sacramento was in decline after nearly reaching the NBA Finals but for some terrible officiating and some Robert Horry magic two years before.

Dogs 0-4 when winning Game 6 at home and 0-5 overall. Home-court in a series matters. It matters a lot, in fact.

Second Round: New Jersey lost Game 6 at home and Detroit eliminated them in Game 7.

The Nets won Game 5 in Detroit and needed to win one in the Motor City to keep alive what could have been a third straight trip to the Finals.

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get it done at home and once the series went back to Detroit, a team of destiny and eventual champion grabbed the 90-69 (nice) win.

Dogs 0-2 when losing Game 6 at home and 0-6 overall.


First Round: Houston won Game 6 at home; Dallas won Game 7 at home.

The road team won each of the first four games in this series. Dallas restored order in Game 5 and serve held the rest of the way. So going into Game 7, each team was 2-1 on the other team’s floor. Hmmm…

Dogs now 0-5 in Game 7 after winning Game 6 at home and 0-7 in Game 7 overall.

First Round: Boston won Game 6 on the road; Indiana won Game 7 in Boston to win the series.

This was the swan song for Antoine Walker in Boston; he would win a ring in Miami the following year. This was also the end of the line for an early-aughts Pacers powerhouse; Reggie Miller retired after Indiana bowed out in the second round, surprising a few folks considering this was the infamous Malice-at-the-Palace year that deprived them of Ron Artest for almost all of the season.

It’s interesting to note that the Pacers never truly collapsed; they bottomed out at 32-50 in 2010 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year before Paul George and Danny Granger‘s early-10s renaissance for the franchise. So much for tanking and rebuilding.

Dogs now 1-2 when losing Game 6 at home and 1-7 in Game 7 overall. You’d think choking away a 3-2 lead at home would be a bigger deal. Anyway…

Eastern Conference Finals: Detroit won Game 6 at home and eliminated Miami in Game 7.

See, this is more what we were expecting, isn’t it? It helps that Detroit was the defending champion and the Heat were still a year away from the awakening (and first title campaign) of Dwyane Wade after he went fifth overall to them in 2003.

But the Pistons weren’t done yet. They had another Finals to attend.

Dogs now 1-5 in Game 7 after winning Game 6 at home and 2-7 overall.

NBA Finals: Spurs lost Game 6 at home but won Game 7 at home to win the series.

We won’t be able to glean useful data about Game 6 at home until 2014 because that’s when the NBA went back to 2-2-1-1-1. I’m including it because the Finals went 7, but it’s a completely separate animal. I will point out that Dogs are now 0-1 in Finals Game 7s on the Favorite’s home floor. That is apples-to-apples purely for Game 7, so we’ll keep that for the overall tally when we’re done.

Dogs now 2-8 overall in Game 7.


First Round: Suns won Game 6 on the road in Los Angeles and came back from 3-1 to win Game 7 at home.

Sorry, Kobe. Y’all blew a 3-1 lead.

Dogs now 1-3 when losing Game 6 at home and 2-9 overall.

Second Round: Clippers won Game 6 at home, Suns won Game 7 at home.

Poor, poor Los Angeles.

Dogs now 1-6 when winning Game 6 at home and 2-10 overall (again, counting the Finals in that latter tally.)

Second Round: Dallas lost Game 6 at home but closed out San Antonio in 7.

No time left for you (on my way to better things), no time left for you (I found myself some wings)

Dogs now a surprising 2-3 when losing Game 6 at home but still just 3-10 overall.

Second Round: Detroit beat Cleveland on the road in Game 6 and came home to close them out in Game 7.

Not yet, LeBron. Not yet.

Just a thought, but what a second round, huh? Three series went seven games, including two series where the underdog had a chance to close out the series and lost at home in Game 6…and one of those road teams nonetheless won Game 7. Wild stuff.

Dogs now 2-4 when losing Game 6 at home and 3-11 overall.


First Round: Utah won Game 6 at home and “upset” Houston in Game 7.

The thing about this series was that Utah was the 4 seed but had to play Games 1 and 7 on the road because Houston had the better record. The Jazz won the Northwest Division at 51-31; Houston was third in the Southwest Division at 52-30. The division-winning Mavericks were the 1 seed and San Antonio, by virtue of having the West’s third-best record, got the 3 seed, but a division winner (Utah) was guaranteed a top-four seed.

Even with all of that, the better record still got home court. Divisions are dumb. Conferences at least make some sense because the United States is an extra-bigass country where Seattle and Miami are further away from each other (2,731 miles/4,395 kilometers) than are Lisbon, Portugal and Moscow, Russia (2,428 mi/3,907 km.) But divisions are dumb.

Dogs (and yes, Utah was the dog because they had the worse record and had to play on the road) now 2-6 when winning Game 6 at home and 4-11 overall.

Note that the dog is now 4-4 in the last 8 Game 7s.


First Round: Boston lost Game 6 in Atlanta but won Game 7 to win the series.

This was the second of five playoff series since 2003 (pending the result of Suns-Mavs) where the home team won all seven games.

So the dog won Game 6 but lost the series.

Dogs now 2-7 when winning Game 6 at home and 4-12 in Game 7 overall.

Second Round: San Antonio won Game 6 at home then closed out the series in New Orleans.

This is the best-case scenario for the 2022 Mavericks played out in history. The home team went 6-0 in the first six games of the series only to have the Spurs break serve in Game 7 and eliminate Chris Paul and the Hornets.

Dogs now 3-7 when winning Game 6 at home and 5-12 overall, including 5-5 in the last 10.

Second Round: Boston lost Game 6 in Cleveland but won Game 7 at home.

This is the third of five playoff series between 2003 and 2021 to feature the home team running the table. Boston, coached by Doc Rivers, managed to go 16-10 in the playoffs despite one of the best defenses in NBA history and a roster led by three Hall of Famers (Paul Pierce joined Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2021) and a bunch of ring-chasing veterans plus a young Rajon Rondo, whose pass-first tendencies were perfect for a star-heavy squad.

You deserve better, Philadelphia.

Dogs now 3-8 when winning Game 6 at home and 5-13 overall.


First Round: Boston lost Game 6 in Chicago but won Game 7 at home.

The Bulls broke serve in Game 1; the Celtics grabbed it back in Game 3 and the series went chalk the rest of the way.

Dogs now 3-9 when winning Game 6 at home and 5-14 overall. Ouch.

First Round: Atlanta lost Game 6 in Miami but closed out Game 7 at home.

SBNation called this the worst NBA playoff series, and there’s something to be said for that assessment. Every game was decided by double digits, and even though the road team won two of the games (Miami won Game 2, Atlanta won Game 4), the losing team failed to crack 80 points in five of the games. It was boring, it was pointless, and as a 4-5 series in a field that only went three contenders deep (Orlando made the Finals, Boston was the defending champ, and Cleveland went 66-16 to get the 1 seed), it was ultimately meaningless.

But anyway, Dogs now 3-10 in Game 7 when winning Game 6 at home and 5-15 overall. That’s 25 percent. Yikes.

Second Round: Lakers lost Game 6 in Houston but closed out Game 7 at home.

Another case of the road team breaking serve in Game 1 and the favorite restoring order in Game 3 before everything went chalk.

Dogs now 3-11 when winning Game 6 at home and 5-16 overall, including what is now four straight Game 7 losses.

Second Round: Orlando won Game 6 at home then shocked Boston on the road in Game 7.

You really start to wonder whether the Celtics would have repeated with a healthy Kevin Garnett…

Dogs now 4-11 when winning Game 6 at home and 6-16 overall.


First Round: Hawks won Game 6 in Milwaukee then closed the Bucks out in Atlanta in Game 7.

Atlanta had a curious little run in the late aughts and early 10s where they were just good enough to stand below the level of the contenders in Boston, Cleveland (and later Miami), and Orlando. Indeed, they made the playoffs for 10 straight seasons between 2008 and 2017 but other than a 2015 team that won 60 games and grabbed the 1 seed but crashed out against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals, they were never any better than that “top of the second tier” level.

Milwaukee gave them a scare in Game 5, but the Hawks righted the ship on the road then came home to take care of business, dashing the Bucks’ hopes of an upset in the process.

Dogs now 2-5 when losing Game 6 at home and 6-17 overall.

NBA Finals: Lakers won Games 6 and 7 at home to beat Boston.

Again, we can’t learn anything about the results of a 2-2-1-1-1 series from the Finals, since they were 2-3-2 until 2014.

But this is the second instance of the Favorites winning Game 7 at home, and that’s something we can compare, so it’s just a separate data point in the overall calculation.

Dogs now 6-18 overall in Game 7, a 21-61 82-game pace. Yikes. The regular season matters, no matter how much it may seem otherwise during those 82 games.


Second Round: Oklahoma City lost Game 6 in Memphis but closed out the series at home.

2011 is the only other season besides 2022 in which no first-round series went seven games. If it weren’t for the plethora of upsets hidden in those series, it might’ve been the dullest playoffs ever (it’s 2011 or 2007, your choice, as 2022 redeemed itself in the second round with two seven-game series.)

Anyway, Memphis almost went to the conference finals as an 8 seed, but the Thunder were able to right the ship after going down 2-1 in Game 3 and losing Game 6 on the road, decisively winning Game 7 105-90 to advance to the conference finals and a date with the eventual champion Mavericks.

Dogs now 4-12 in Game 7 when winning Game 6 at home and just 6-19 in Game 7 overall, a sad .240 winning percentage.


First Round: Lakers lost Game 6 in Denver but won Game 7 at home.

The lockout had one notable effect on the playoffs, namely the hobbling of the Chicago Bulls thanks to a Derrick Rose injury that has been blamed on the condensed 66-game schedule.

But for the most part, if you won more games than your opponent, you won Game 7 at home if necessary.

Dogs now 4-13 when winning Game 6 at home and 6-20 overall.

First Round: Clippers lost Game 6 at home but closed out the series in Memphis in Game 7.

The Clippers almost blew a 3-1 lead, but they’d have to wait for Doc Rivers to coach them before they could do that. They still had Vinny Del Negro coaching them in 2012.

Dogs now 3-5 when losing Game 6 at home and 7-20 overall. Surprisingly still, the underdog seems more likely to win Game 7 on the road when they forced the favorite to win an elimination Game 6. I have no idea what this means in practice.

Second Round: Boston lost Game 6 in Philadelphia but spared themselves the indignity of losing to an 8 seed in Game 7.

We’ll get to a Boston Game 7 choke in a bit here. This is the Game 7 they won.

Dogs now 4-14 when winning Game 6 at home and 7-21 overall.

Eastern Conference Finals: LeBron James ripped the Celtics’ throat out. Miami won Game 6 in Boston and Game 7 at home.

This is the Game 6 every Celtics fan remembers, because it’s the Game 6 that ended the KG/Pierce/Allen era with just a single championship ring. LeBron went for 45 points on the road, then went on to get his first ring and finally get that monkey off his back against Oklahoma City in the Finals.

Dogs now 3-6 in Game 7 when losing Game 6 at home and 7-22 overall, a .241 winning percentage.

Coming Soon:

I’m going to try to get the rest of this list out before the games tip off so that we’ll have a more complete picture of what may happen for the Bucks and Mavericks.

But statstically speaking, Milwaukee, despite losing Game 6 and failing to close out the Celtics Friday night, has a better chance of winning their road Game 7 than Dallas has of winning theirs. The dogs have a .333 winning percentage in nine tries when the favorite had to win a Game 6 to force the series back to their home floor. The dogs have just a .222 winning percentage when they were down 3-2 in Game 6.

But then again, counting those two NBA Finals, the Celtics and Suns do, based on the overall 29-game sample so far, have a 75.9 percent chance overall to win if past performance is in any way predictive of future results.

And there’s also the secondary concern for the Suns that the home team has won all seven games of a best-of-seven series just five times since 2003. This would only be the sixth such instance, so maybe that’s advantage Mavs?

Anyway, we have the numbers. What they mean come tipoff is…well, we will all find out on Sunday.

Part 2 is tomorrow. Until then, stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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