What We've Learned Betting The NBA
By Jason McIntyre
The NBA restart from the bubble in the Orlando gave gamblers the biggest wagering opportunity since the Super Bowl.
Opening weekend provided mixed results — outside of one staggering 6-0 run of overs cashing on Friday, as many of the lower-tier bubble teams decided defense was optional. Overall, favorites have gone 10-9, and overs are 10-9, as well.
So what have we learned so far? Well, sportsbooks over-adjusted to basketball being played in unfamiliar gyms with no fans and no home court advantage, making totals far too low. After underdogs and unders went 2-0 in turnover-filled opening night thrillers (Pelicans vs Jazz; Lakers vs Clippers), the quality of basketball dipped Friday, and overs ruled.
Incredibly, in all six games, each team’s individual team total went over, as did all six games. As a result, Saturday games were bet up, as we know the public leans into favorites and overs — and unders went 3-2 on the day. Sunday games were bet up as well, and unders went 4-2.
In turn, my strategy of betting all unders has won three of four days, but the Friday losses were severe. There are still two weeks of regular season games, and I’ll continue backing dogs, even if i have to hold my nose.
Rockets red glare: After overcoming a 7-point deficit with :45 left to stun Dallas in overtime Friday, the Rockets erased an 8-point deficit in the final three minutes to topple Milwaukee Sunday.
If you haven’t grabbed Rockets +1600 to win the title, this might be your last chance.
Orlando’s offense: First, the Magic dropped 70 in the first half on the toothless Nets. Then, they did the same to the hapless Kings, scoring 78. The Magic have scored at least 120 points in five straight games, and 14 straight Orlando games have gone over, the longest stretch by any team in 30 years.
There will be an opportunity to fade Orlando going forward, though, with games against four straight teams ranked in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency (Pacers, Raptors, 76ers, Celtics).
Small-ball Spurs: With no Lamarcus Aldridge, the Spurs decided to unleash a dizzying array of guards — with lineups that included Rudy Gay at center — and they went 2-0, creeping up from 12th to 9th in the West.
San Antonio had lost 10 of 15 before the restart and their playoff hopes were on life support; now, they’re just two games back of Memphis for the 8th seed. The Spurs have made the postseason for 22 straight seasons.
The Lakers offense: The No. 1 seed in the West shot under 40 percent from the field in both games, albeit against two teams that rank in the top five in defensive efficiency (Clippers 5th, Raptors 2nd). In fact, the Lakers had their worst shooting performance of the season vs. Toronto, hitting 35 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep in defeat.
There’s no need to panic, but there is an opportunity to bet the under going forward. Both their team total and full game unders have hit in the bubble, and once they secure the No. 1 seed — which happens with a win Monday over Utah — expect heavy doses of Dion Waiters, JR Smith, and patchwork lineups.
The Pelicans: After choking away an 11-point third quarter lead in a baffling loss to the Jazz on opening night, the Pelicans embarrassed themselves vs. the Clippers. New Orleans allowed a franchise-record 24 three-pointers and trailed by 40 at one point in a humbling loss. It likely ended their season.
Still, there will be opportunities to bet them over the week against equally-terrible defensive teams like the Grizzlies, Kings and Wizards.
Kemba Walker is coming back from an injured knee and played just 14 minutes in the opener, but then played 22 minutes in game two. Even without him, their game against the short-handed Bucks (no Bledsoe, no Connaughton) went over, as did their thrilling push against the Blazers, a game they led by 30. The Celtics have a Rockets-ish boom or bust feeling in the East.
Saturday, Denver’s leading scorer, Jamal Murray, was ruled out about an hour before the game vs. Miami. The Nuggets led the Heat by one at the half but got blown out in the 2nd half. In the six games prior to the restart, he played a total of 12 minutes and took eight shots. Rookie Bol Bol made his NBA debut and played 12 minutes. The Nuggets are getting healthy and tinkering. Bet them at your own risk.