NBA Playoffs Betting Strategies
After a month of early-round playoff excitement, we’ve reached the Eastern and Western conference finals. There are two great matchups to bet on every night and still a solid 3 weeks of NBA betting to be had. Stop leaving money on the table every night and take a look at some of our top betting strategies and approaches to betting on NBA playoffs action.
Betting Strategies for the NBA Playoffs
Individual Game Betting Strategies
Like every other game during the season, the standard bets are available for each and every playoff game. You can bet on the moneyline (winner of the game), point-spread (margin of victory), and over/under (the combined point total between two teams).
However, there’s nothing standard about the games themselves. Playoff basketball is an entirely different beast than the regular season. The players are actually trying, matchups are essential, and the pressure can make players crack (Paul George) or rise to the occasion (Trae Young).
That means it’s essential to have a few betting strategies in your back pocket when you’re looking at each game in the NBA playoffs.
1. Home-Court Advantage
Now that fans have returned to arenas, the home-court advantage is HUGE in the playoffs where the home team has won 64% of all games throughout history. However, this advantage is completely dependent on the arena. Places like Utah and Phoenix have atmospheres that consistently deliver strong advantages to their teams. Meanwhile, crowds like the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets aren’t hostile enough to make a difference.
For each series, here is the breakdown of who gets to host each game:
Before you bet, do your research on each team’s performance at home at these great free sports data sites that we’ve already broken down.
If you’re lazy as shit and don’t want to do any of the work, here are the home records for the remaining four teams in this postseason. Bet accordingly.
|Games 1 & 2
|Games 3 & 4
Phoenix Suns: 6-1
Los Angeles Clipper: 4-3
Milwaukee Bucks: 5-1
Atlanta Hawks: 3-2
2. Zig-Zag Theory
The zig-zag theory operates exactly how it sounds. If a team loses a game or plays poorly in the playoffs, you’re betting that they’ll rebound and win the next game (or at least cover the spread). Admittedly, a portion of the theory is based on emotional factors, like the fact that players are more invested and motivated to respond to adversity and that the public and bookies tend to overreact to wins and losses. While we don’t love to put our money on hunches or crackpot theories, those arguments definitely make sense and should be considered.
However, there is also cold hard data that supports this, which is summarized well here.
If the road team wins Game 1, then 76% of the time, the home team will come back to win Game 2. Watch out for upsets and don’t get fooled by Game 1 heroics.
In Game 2, the loser of Game 1 will cover the spread 56% of the time, regardless of the favorite or underdog.
If the favorite goes up 2-0, then the underdog will win Game 3 at home 65% of the time and cover the spread 68% of the time.
If a favorite loses any playoff game by 4 points or more, then they’ll beat the spread in the next game in 59% of matchups.
Obviously, this is never a 100% accurate theory, but something that should always be considered in the playoffs.
3. Coaching and Matchups
Basketball is a game of matchups. And never is that more apparent than in a postseason series, where teams face each other in multiple games in a row over the course of two weeks. With today’s technology and advanced analytics, each subsequent game provides valuable information to coaching staffs and players that will allow them to exploit weaknesses in the opponent in the next game.
Unfortunately, there’s no tried and true method or strategy like the Zig-Zag Theory that you can rely on here. You just have to trust your eyes and knowledge of the game and think critically about who you think will prevail over the course of the series.
Here are two big things I consider:
Betting on each individual game is the best way to stay involved and focused every night. But for those of us who can’t handle that kind of stress, there’s always series result betting.
- Star Power: Here’s a crazy stat – the last 9 NBA championships have been won by a team with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonhard, or Steph Curry. To win a title in this league, you need to have one of the top 3 or 4 players on your side. When it comes down to the fourth quarter, think about who you trust more. Giannis or Trae Young? Paul George or Devin Booker? Make your bet accordingly.
- Coaching: Coaching is essential in the playoffs and the only way to keep a team off-balance throughout a 7-game series. Do you trust your coach to make adjustments in between games? In between quarters and possessions?
Series Result Betting
For this kind of bet, you’re wagering on the end result of the entire series between two teams. These bets are great because they keep you involved over the course of an entire series, which can span nearly two weeks. Even if you lose bets on each individual game, you still have the chance to hit your series bet and give yourself some breathing room.
Even if a series has already started, you can still make these bets, though the odds will shift throughout the series. In fact, I’d recommend placing series bets after one or two games have occurred instead of at the beginning. Not only are the odds more favorable, but you get a chance to watch the teams play and make a decision instead of projecting what you think could happen without any evidence. So let's get into a few betting strategies for the NBA playoffs that pertain to each type of series result wager.
There are three different types of wagers you can make here:
1. Series Winner
This bet is on who will win the entire series between the two teams. These bets usually don’t have great odds for the favorite. But if there’s a close matchup between two evenly matched teams, it’s a good opportunity to put money on one side that you have a hunch about.
Let’s take a quick look at the lines for matchups that still remain from DraftKings:
You’ll notice that the LA Clippers are heavy underdogs against the Phoenix Suns, which makes sense. Kawhi’s hurt, the Clippers are the lower seed, they’ve already lost two games, and Chris Paul is scheduled to return soon. However, this bet has great value right now at +575 odds. Los Angeles has come back from 2-0 in both series during these playoffs. Paul George is capable of elite basketball. And Phoenix is a young team that could be prone to a collapse. You might want to consider a unit on LA in case something crazy happens.
2. Series Score
This bet is on who will win the series AND in how many games. For example, in the Clippers series, you could bet on the Suns winning but in 6 games. Similar to a parlay, these bets are less likely to occur, but usually have great odds.
This bet is great for when you think a series will either be closer or more lopsided than people think. Maybe you love the Hawks, but just don’t see them pulling it out in a full series. That’s a chance to put money on them extending the series to 6 or 7 games.
Let’s take a look at the lines from DraftKings:
As you can see here, every single bet option has positive odds. Even if you spread your money across a few different bets to hedge your wagers, you’ll still end up walking away with some solid winnings if anything hits.
3. Total Games
A little more straightforward, this bet is on the total number of games in the entire series, regardless of who wins or loses. For example, if the teams are evenly matched and you have no idea who’s going to win, you could place a bet on the series going to seven games and still cash in.
As you can see, these bets are generally more appealing at the beginning of a series than during the middle of one. After one or two games, the amount of scenarios naturally starts to dwindle and your options become limited.
Happy betting and I hope you make the most of the remainder of the postseason.