NBA has become one of the most heavily bet on sports in Australia. With each of the 30 teams playing 82 games a season there are often over 10 games a day to bet on. But there’s a few things you should know before you start betting.
The NBA has one of the toughest schedules of any professional sport with an already long season made more difficult by teams having to play games on consecutive days in separate cities. The consequence of this is that player fatigue becomes an issue for players at various points throughout the season, and even star players might find themselves sitting out or being benched for long periods in the game.
As such, it is important to check the latest news and speculation on line-ups before you make that bet that is too good to be true. Game lines can move dramatically based on the inclusion/omission of key players.
If you feel a bet is only value if a certain player taking the court, you should wait until lineups are announced to place the bet. Whilst many punters believe that by waiting until lineups are confirmed they risk worse odds or a worse line, they ignore the fact that social media or forums often come across information about lineups well before bookmakers have time to react.
Don’t ask why, but both the spread (game line), and the total points over/under markets are inclusive of overtime. This means that if you’re on under 200.5 points and the score at the end of the 4th is 100-100, you lose once a point is scored in overtime.
Similarly, if you’re on a +4.5 line and the match heads into overtime, you’d better hope your team holds on and doesn’t lose by 5 or more, because if they can’t, your bet will lose.
Whilst historical data tells us that less than 5% games go to overtime, the way line bets are handled when they do is something that all bettors should be wary of. It is especially important in scenarios where the game is expected to be competitive, or late in the game when scores are close.
If you’re looking at line betting, consider quarter by quarter lines as opposed to the fulltime market. Or, if you are set on betting on fulltime spreads, consider betting with a bookmaker that offers cash outs, and cash out if the game is close.
Alternatively, if you are on a total game score ‘under’ bet, considering hedging your bet on close games by placing money on the game heading into overtime.
Garbage/Junk Time and In-Game Resting
When a team is losing comprehensively, they may resign themselves to a defeat and rest their stars for the next game. Likewise, a team that is leading by a large margin may also put on their bench to take some minutes. This phenomena of resting players during ‘garbage time’ is particularly true when the team is away from home, and without a crowd to please.
It should be noted that whilst the idea of resting key players is not unique to the NBA, it is especially prevalent due to the way teams are ranked on the overall standings. Unlike with other sports and leagues, NBA teams that are equal on points are ranked by the winning percentage against each other (and then several other factors) before points are taken into account. Thus, whilst a big loss might need to managed from a morale and motivational point of view, it will not affect divisional standings.
If you know players are likely to be rested, search for value on the live spread – the score could blow out, especially if the winning team is at home and wants to please the crowd. Similarly, if you’ve already got line bets on the match that are in winning positions and you can cash these out for near full value, consider that option as the game dynamic can change completely in garbage time.
Teams travel all season long, but there are definitely some trips that stand out when it comes to travel distance. Yes, teams located on the coast like the Golden State Warriors will travel more overall (50% more) than the centrally located Cleveland Cavaliers, but the game-to-game effects are even more important to consider. Whilst it stands to reason that a team travelling a significant distance to a game will have their preparation and performance more heavily impacted than a team travelling a shorter distance, it is not often considered that this is true even if an away game is geographically closer to a team’s home base. Likewise, a team playing their third road game in a row might show signs of weariness that a team coming off of a run of home games will not.
Bettors and bookmakers alike factor how far a team is playing away from home, and how well a team typically ‘travels’ into their bets and markets respectively. Whilst this means you may not be able to get huge value from using how far a team is away from home as a proxy for the degree of home ground advantage, you may still be able to take advantage of how a game fit into the overall travel schedule of a team. Take the example of LA Clippers travelling to the other side of America to play the Chicago Bulls, followed a few days later by a match at Indiana Pacers. Both of these matches are far away from the Clippers base, but as they are in close vicinity to one another, it means that the Clippers might actually be travelling less, and be more acclimatised, than their transcontinental opponents. In this scenario the Clippers might be actually be overpriced due to their ‘away’ status.
Live Betting and Initial Line Bias
With popular leagues such as the NBA, bookmakers are good at setting pre-game lines to ensure an even amount of money is placed on each side of the market. However, once a game has started, there is potential for these lines to be way off the mark based on unpredicted game dynamics (such as players matching up poorly to one another).
Whilst in-play odds will adjust to reflect the way the game pans out, the way live odds are calculated usually uses the initial line as a factor. This means that there is an inherent bias within the live line based on pre-game assumptions that may have turned out to be inaccurate. This can be exploited, as with the below game between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs:
|San Antonio Spurs -5.5||
|Dallas Mavericks +5.5||
At half time the score is Dallas 50 – 34 Spurs. The live line based on the gameplay probably ought to be in the vicinity of 12-20 points in favour of Dallas, but what we will usually find is that the live line will anticipate a reversion to the pre-game prediction that Spurs will outperform Dallas in the second half. Thus you may find that the line is only about 4-6 points in favour of Dallas.
Take note of chances to get on the underdog side of the spread when an underdog is controlling the match. The bookmakers’ live lines (which rely on a combination of formulas and human input) are often biased towards pre-game and will not take into account unpredicted game dynamics. Remember though, that backing the underdog for a blowout may be risky when they are away, as they have less motivation to pile on points right until the final buzzer for the fans.
Note that this logic also works for live total game score over/under lines. If an initial total is set at over/under 190.5 and the first half score is 60-61 (total 121), the live line is usually far closer to the current score (121) plus half of the pre-game line (ie 121 + 0.5 x 190.5 = 216.5), when in actual fact the game is fast paced and is showing no signs of slowing down. If there’s even another 100 points in the second half (a significant slowdown), it will go well over.