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NBA Betting against the spread
Home Court Really Doesn’t Matter
There’s a common belief that placing a bet against the spread on the team you believe will win is the way to go. But contrary to popular belief, home teams don’t necessarily hold the advantage when it comes to covering.
Home teams certainly hold the advantage when it comes to winning straight-up: From 2008 to 2018, home teams – favorite or not – won better than 59 percent of regular season and postseason games straight-up.
But in terms of the point spread, home teams covered only 49.2 percent of the time. It paid to bet the underdog – albeit in a small amount – in that span.
And, no, there wasn’t much distinction or difference between home favorites and home underdogs. Home favorites covered 49.4 percent of the time, compared with home underdogs covering 48.4 percent of the time.
It would seem to make sense that home teams get the edge here because they win more often, but that isn’t the case; oddsmakers take that home help into consideration. They’re more likely to win the game, but whether or not they cover is simply a toss-up.
Schedule, Travel and Days Off
Beginning in 2017, the NBA moved the start of its season up and eliminated four-games-in-five-days stretches. The goals were simple: reduce the players’ stress of the traveling schedule and keeping them both healthy and, more importantly, on the floor.
Commissioner Adam Silver was given the authority to fine teams up to $100,000 for teams resting healthy players.
Still, comparing teams’ past schedules is important. It’s usually a smart play to give the tiebreaking nod to a team that has had an additional day of rest. Conversely, a team on the final stretch of a clumped together schedule may be one to fade.
Teams on the tail end of a road trip have it more difficult; yes, we said home teams don’t get an advantage simply for being at home, but traveling is traveling. If they’ve been doing it for a while it becomes significant to address.
This one’s third on our list but in some instances it might be the most important. Serious injuries are, of course, taken into account: If a player was expected to miss a month with a pulled hamstring, oddsmakers have adjusted the point spread taking that into account.
But as the NBA continues to lengthen the schedule and find time for its stars to rest, day-to-day injuries arise more often. That leaves players with questionable, probable and doubtful tags heading into gameday. It’s impossible for sportsbooks to know whether those players will suit up, leaving them to hedge the lines.
One of the best indicators of determining whether a player will play is his participation – or lack thereof – in that morning’s shootaround. All teams have them for every game – unless they played the night before – so reporters of those teams will have updates on whether a player was active that morning.
Shootarounds are much more than just getting a few shots up. Teams run through plays, go over scouting reports and more to get ready for the night’s game; they’re dress rehearsals, so they can give a good indication of whether a player will be active.
Check for shootaround participation and feel better about wagering for or against a team.
On the Rebound
Professionals don’t like underperforming. No, they aren’t paying attention to point spreads, but if they’ve lost – and failed to cover – the previous game they’re bound to bounce back.
And maybe oddsmakers overvalue a team coming off a win – or undervalue a team after a loss – but there is a small trend we’ve uncovered. From 2008 to 2018, teams coming off a straight-up loss covered the next game 50.5 percent of the time.
That may seem small, but consider that a team coming off a win covers against the point spread just 49.4 percent of the time. That’s not a big enough trend to simply go hammer teams that have just lost.
But it just goes to show that the majority of teams level out, especially over the course of an 82-game season. Losing streaks happen, but teams usually bounce back. They find a way to keep things close.