Why Do the NBA Playoffs Take So Long?

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Why Do the NBA Playoffs Take So Long?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Sixty-one days.

If the 2010 NBA Finals goes a full seven games, that is how many days it will have taken to complete the 2010 NBA Playoffs.

Starting April 17, the playoffs would conclude with Game 7 of the NBA Finals on June 17. That’s entirely too long.

A student at The Ohio State University could nearly complete a quarter’s worth of classes in that time. Excluding exam week, a quarter at Ohio State is 10 weeks, or 70 days.

This past week, Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Orlando Magic, commented on the length of the NBA postseason:

“Baseball gets their whole playoffs and World Series done in like three weeks. Us, it takes us the first round to go three weeks.”

As far-fetched as it may seem, Van Gundy’s hyperbole is not that far off.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls were to play a seven-game series, Game 7 would be on May 1, a full two weeks after Game 1.

Each game in the series would be followed by at least one day off and sometimes two, a common feature of all the league’s postseason series.

In fact, between Games 2 and 3 of the Utah JazzDenver Nuggets series, each team was given a full three days off. Game 2 was played April 19 and Game 3 was played on April 23.

I understand that the series shifted from Denver to Utah, but is Salt Lake City really that far away from Denver? I don’t think so.

The length of the NBA Playoffs is ridiculous and it needs to be completed in a timelier fashion.

Some suggest that limiting the number of teams would fix the problem. Over half of the league’s 30 teams qualify for the postseason—16 to be exact.

I like the fact that a young and talented team like the Oklahoma City Thunder has a chance to display its skills against an elite team like the Los Angeles Lakers. If the number of teams were reduced, the Thunder would probably not be in that position. I don’t think lessening the number of teams is good for the NBA. I believe the length concern can be fixed without changing how many teams make the playoffs.

Others suggest that the league should go back to the 5-7-7-7 playoff format. As it stands now, each playoff series is a seven-game series. Under the 5-7-7-7 format, first-round series were best-of-five games and the rest of the postseason series were best-of-seven.

Sure, making the change would hasten the first round, but what about the Conference Semis, the Conference Finals, and the NBA Finals?

The perfect solution to decrease the span of the NBA postseason is simple.

ELIMINATE ALL THE OFF DAYS.

There is no reason why teams need all the days off in between games.

Games 1 and 2 should be played on consecutive nights. Then, teams should be given a day for travel and resume play with Game 3, the following night in the new city. Game 4 should be played the next night.

If a fifth game is necessary, an off day should occur for teams to travel back to the location of Games 1 and 2. The same scenario should happen if a Game 6 were needed, only the teams would be traveling back to the site of Games 3 and 4.

If a seventh game is in order, it should be played the night after Game 6, no off day. Teams should travel back to the city of Games 1, 3 and 5 immediately after Game 6. Game 7s are one of the most exciting spectacles in sports, why make everyone wait?

Games played on successive nights are not uncommon during the regular season.

This season, the Cavaliers played 18 back-to-backs, set of games occurring on successive nights. All 18 were played in a different city. As a result, the Cavs had to travel immediately following the first game of each back-to-back to arrive in time to play the second.

Having teams play consecutive nights in the same city without having to travel should not be an issue.

If the NCAA can go from 65 Division I Men’s Basketball teams to one in roughly three weeks, why does it take the NBA 61 days to go from 16 to one?

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