NBA Basketball Betting–Game Seven Hangover


In much of the world, the phenomenon of a ‘Game Seven’ is practically nonexistent. Since soccer is king of sports internationally the major sport in most countries don’t decide competitions with a seven game playoff. With the domination of the NFL in the United States sports scene you’d think that the mystique of a decisive ‘Game Seven’ playoff matchup would have diminished somewhat. Based on the first round of play in the NBA and NHL playoffs that doesn’t appear to be the case.

We’ve already covered the impact of the ‘Game Seven Hangover’ in professional hockey but it’s also applicable to NBA basketball betting. The dynamic may be somewhat different but the impact is identical. Hockey may be more of a game of emotion and intensity while NBA basketball is likely more of a game of ‘energy’. That being said, letdown situations are actually more effective in NBA handicapping than in NHL handicapping. And the ‘Game Seven Hangover’ is the ‘mother of all letdown spots’.


So what is the ‘Game Seven Hangover’? It’s the situation where one team wins a Game 7 to clinch one series and has to turn around and play Game 1 in their next series. This naturally produces an emotional and physical ‘letdown’ as they go from the drama and intensity of the previous series to a new opponent in a new series where the games are 0-0. Teams coming off a Game 7 are teams that you should look to ‘go against’ and particularly in the NBA. There are some ‘mitigating and aggravating factors’ that we’ll discuss below.

In theory, you’d think that professional athletes would be immune from this type of emotional/subjective phenomenon but that isn’t the case. In fact, some teams come out listless after any series victory though it’s more of a tendency of an individual club and not a situation that we can use in a generalized manner. Of course, emotion and energy are only part of the problem in the transition from a Game 7 of one series to Game 1 of the next series. Strategy and tactics are also an issue—by the time a team has played six games head to head in a short amount of time matchup specific strategies are second nature. Moving into a new series, they must be ‘reassimiliated’.


Some level of ‘Game Seven Hangover’ is unavoidable as a team heads into Game One of the next series. In extreme circumstances, the ‘hangover’ can last more than one game—there are situations where a team exerted such a monumental effort in Game 7 of the previous series that they simply had nothing left for the next opponent and were quickly eliminated. Again, these are more situational ‘Game Seven Hangover’ impacts but there are few if any teams that can avoid at least a slow start to their next game.

The ‘best case scenario’ is for the team coming off a seven game series to meet an opponent in the same situation. The ‘Game Seven Hangover’ cancels out and in most cases there is no competitive disadvantage for either side. This doesn’t happen often, however, and the ‘Game Seven’ team is usually up against a team that vanquished their opponent in five or six games. It will happen at the time I’m writing this in the 2016 NBA playoffs—the Miami/Charlotte series and the Toronto/Indiana series are both going to a Game 7. The winners of this series will face each other in the next round.

What’s interesting is that there is a ‘sweet spot’ for the opponent of the ‘Game 7’ team and that’s usually for them to win their previous series in five or six games. A sweep in the previous round can actually prove to be disadvantageous if that team gets too much time off between games. It’s easy for a NBA basketball team to lose focus, energy and intensity if they’re off more than five or six days—and that can happen, particularly if they’re waiting for a series that goes seven games. Many recreational bettors overemphasize the importance of ‘rest’ in this situation—some rest is certainly good but at some point it can become excessive and start to dull the performance of a team idle for too long.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for a team already facing a ‘Game Seven Hangover’ is a quick turnaround to the next series. In most cases, teams want to have at least three days off before beginning the next round. That isn’t always possible, however, and it’s not uncommon to see teams win a series in seven games and have to start another series in a new city 48 hours later. This is probably the situation most likely to produce a ‘Game Seven Hangover’.

A word of warning—like most effective handicapping concepts the ‘Game Seven Hangover’ isn’t a secret. It’s often ‘baked in’ to the pointspread for Game One of the subsequent series. At one point in history, you could blindly bet against any team in the ‘Game Seven Hangover’ scenario. Now you have to evaluate the matchup with a greater degree of nuance, considering the overall impact of the long series against the physical condition and mindset of the team they’re facing.