The process of evaluating an NBA point spread changes a lot when we move from the regular season to the NBA Playoffs.
If you’re going to bet on these games, it’s worth being both a little conservative and a little reflective.
This is the NBA betting strategy that’s worked for me, at least, as I’m 6-0 on bets since the Hawks covered in Cleveland last Friday night.
With that in mind, here are a few quick observations I jotted down in my notes after the opening blitz of NBA games that might help you lay down a few good bets.
Play-In Teams Are DOA For Game 1 of the First Round
One of the theories I had coming into this weekend was that the No. 8 seeds that came out of the Play-In Tournament were not put in a good position to compete effectively in Game 1 of the first round.
The Hawks and Pelicans played elimination games at home on Wednesday and on the road on Friday. On Sunday, they hit the road again for their third game in five days. They lost those two Sunday games by a combined 35 points.
In the case of Atlanta’s offense, they were completely dominated by an aggressive Miami defense that looked much more intense and energized.
The Play-In Tournament is still new, so this is something to bookmark for next year’s playoffs. No. 1 seeds are going to be in strong positions in Game 1 – particularly in a case like Miami, where a No. 1 seed may not have oversaturated NBA Championship odds.
Sportsbooks Know That We Want to Bet Big Favorites
One of the most unsurprising developments of the opening salvo of NBA playoff games was the heavy price on Phoenix and Milwaukee. Last year’s finalists both closed as 10.5-point favorites in Game 1 of their opening 2022 playoff series.
Milwaukee won, 93-86, but failed to cover the number.
Phoenix held a 78-71 lead after three quarters and may have failed to cash tickets as well if not for Chris Paul’s fourth-quarter explosion. Even with his late heroics, the Suns still squeaked the cover in by half a point.
Sportsbooks generally know which teams are beloved by public bettors, and much of the NBA news cycle in 2022 has circled around a potential title rematch between the Suns and Bucks. It makes sense, then, that more than 65% of tickets in each of those games were laying the points with the favorite.
If handicapping is about evaluating efficient markets, then it’s critical for bettors to identify pre-flop positions that are likely to be intentionally overpriced. This was an easy example, which is why I opted to limit my risk with a Suns money line position. I didn’t bet the Bucks/Bulls game at all.
The Bucks Were a Total Steal at -700
This was a major talking point on our podcast The Lion’s Edge last week. The series price for the Bucks to beat the Bulls opened at -700 and moved to -1100 before Game 1.
Now, with the Bucks holding a 1-0 series lead despite not playing all that well, the series price is up to -3000.
If you listened to @TheLionsEdge last week:
You’re holding a Bucks -1100 ticket instead of buying a -3000 ticket this week 💰 pic.twitter.com/AyaE7tybwZ
— The Lion's Edge Podcast (@TheLionsEdge) April 18, 2022
Casual bettors may balk at laying -1100 juice on a bet that will take days to cash, but the mathematical reality is that the Bucks have virtually no chance of losing this series.
Chicago has been one of the worst teams in the league since the All-Star break, posting an 8-15 record over that time span. They don’t have the roster or the form to beat Milwaukee.
The Celtics/Nets Series Might Actually Live Up to the Hype
What more is there to say that hasn’t already been loudly declared by every other podcast host in America? Game 1 was awesome.
Boston took horrible shots through the whole first quarter, couldn't hit anything in the fourth quarter, and still ice the Nets at the buzzer.
Feel great about this Celtics Series Line -1.5 ticket.
— Chase Kiddy (@chaseakiddy) April 17, 2022
I’m still standing by my handicap that Boston -140 on the series price was a steal, and I think this series has the chance to be over faster than people realize.
Regardless, Wednesday night’s Game 2 is appointment viewing. Make sure you’ve cleared your calendar.