NBA Basketball Betting–First Round Playoff Betting Tips


The NBA playoffs start on Saturday and given the dubious level of competition in the league at this point some of the mismatches could be brutal. There are some potentially entertaining pairings like the Western Conference series between the Portland Trailblazers and Golden State Warriors. On the other hand, there are ugly matchups like the Golden State Warriors against the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs against the Memphis Grizzlies (losers of 9 of 10 to close out the regular season). Of course our focus isn’t on entertainment value but wagering profits. Here are some betting concepts for the first round of the NBA playoffs:


The important thing to remember about double digit underdogs in the NBA circa 2016 is that ‘it takes two to tango’. And while double digit dogs are seldom competitive against superior competition straight up they can often be competitive against the spread. If a double digit dog is capable of even a marginal effort they can often cash a ticket since they’ll frequently be up against teams that are looking down the road to bigger challenges. Double digit underdogs off a playoff loss are on a 32-17-2 run against the spread. The higher the total the better the underdog’s chances to cover since it suggests less of an emphasis on defense and a bigger emphasis on trading points. And if you’ve been thinking of laying the big price on Golden State in the first round you might want to think again—defending champions laying double digit points in the first round have covered only 5 of the last 14 games in this situation. Sports betting experts aren’t afraid to go against the ‘public’ and neither should you.


Another excellent situation is to bet a team playing at home after a straight up loss as a favorite. The most common situation for this to occur is in the first two games of a series—an overconfident favorite loses Game 1 with Game 2 set for their home floor. Teams looking to avenge this upset are 68-42-4. It’s basic competitive nature—teams that get embarrassed on their home floor are given a ‘wake up call’ and usually show up focus the next time out. Against a lower tier seed (6, 7 or 8) teams in this ‘home court upset revenge’ situation are 36-16-2 against the spread.


While low seeds can cash a pointspread ticket or two don’t expect them to do anything good for you. This is especially true for the #8 seed in a matchup against the #1 seed. The lower seeded team is 54-133 straight up since 1996 and only three teams in that timeframe have managed to pull the upset and eliminate the top seeded opponent (1996 New York Knicks, 2007 Golden State Warriors, 2012 Philadelphia 76ers). For what it’s worth, the Houston Rockets (#8) went 0-3 SU and ATS against the Golden State Warriors (#1) this season. The Detroit Pistons (#8), on the other hand, are an intriguing opponent for the Cleveland Cavaliers (#1). The Pistons went 3-1 SU and ATS against the Cavs this year taking both games in Cleveland and splitting a pair of games at home. The Pistons have also won and covered 4 of the last 6 head to head in Detroit. Over the past three years, Cleveland is just 7-5 SU/6-6 ATS in all venues. Detroit also played fairly well down the stretch going 6-4. Teams like the Pistons that have fared well in a particular matchup might be worth a look in the #1 vs. #8 situation.


This is fairly obvious but bears repeating. In more competitive games I would suggest not worrying about the pointspread and just trying to pick the outright winner. In the first round, I’d say that any game with a pointspread of -8 or lower should be viewed as a ‘competitive game’. In the higher priced games you have to consider not only whether the underdog has the personnel and mental focus to at least turn in a competitive effort against a superior team. Additionally, you have to determine whether the favorite has the motivation to lay a blowout on an overmatched opponent or if they would be happy getting any kind of victory in the books.