Betting on the NBA Conference Finals
This year’s NBA playoffs have featured some of the most exciting series in recent memory, but when you look back at the straight up results they have pretty much gone chalk, with the top two seeds in both the East and the West facing off against one another in the Conference Finals. No. 1 Indiana already has a 1-0 series lead against No. 2 Miami in the East, and tonight the No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder will open their best-of-seven series as underdogs on the road against No. 1 San Antonio in the West.
When you look back at scores and betting results for the all the NBA playoff games, it paints a different picture of this year’s postseason against the spread. The opening round of eight best-of-seven matchups played 50 of a possible 56 games, with five series going the distance. The underdogs ended up 23-27 SU, but they compiled a 33-15-2 record ATS. That means if you would have wagered $100 on the underdog in all 50 games you would have walked away with a profit of $1,650.
Moving on to the second round, which was the Conference Semifinals, it took 22 of a potential 28 games to get through all four series. This time around the underdogs had a SU winning record of 12-10 while going 14-8 ATS. The same $100 bet on the underdog in this round would have provided a $520 return on investment. The total return would be +$2,170 for betting against the favorites on a game-by-game basis in this year’s playoffs.
The Pacers have already kept this trend going with Sunday’s stunning 107-96 victory over the defending champs as two-point home underdogs. Most books have them listed as 2.5-point underdogs at home for Tuesday night’s Game 2. This matchup in recent memory has heavily favored the home team SU considering that the visitors have come up short on the final scoreboard nine straight times. The Pacers have the slight 5-4 edge ATS in the last nine meetings.
Last year, Indiana and Miami met in the Conference Finals, and it went all the way to a Game 7 with the Heat cruising to a 99-77 victory as seven-point home favorites. Miami went 3-4 ATS in that series and 1-2 as an underdog in three road games. The fact that the Pacers have already been listed as underdogs at home for the first two games suggests that the Heat will be favored in every game no matter how long the series actually lasts. The best betting strategy for this series could be to stick with the home team in every game.
Looking back at some of the recent betting trends for the Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio showdown, the Thunder come into this series with a five-game winning streak both SU and ATS. If you expand that out to 10 games, they are 8-2 SU against the Spurs with an 8-1-1 record ATS.
Despite the overall dominance in this series, including a 4-2 SU (4-1-1 ATS) series victory in the 2012 Western Conference Finals, Oklahoma City has traditionally struggled to cover on the road against the Spurs. It is just 5-18 SU in its last 23 road games against the Spurs with a record of 8-13-2 ATS. Most of the books have the Thunder listed as 5.5-point underdogs on the road for Monday night’s Game 1.
The big question betting this game as well as this series as a whole is how to use the most recent trends between the two, which clearly favor the Thunder, or instead taking a more historical approach by betting against them on the road. The best betting strategy could be to follow suit with the other Conference Final and forget about favorites and underdogs and just ride the home team in every game.