NBA Handicapping - Bouncing Back from Blowouts
by Trevor Whenham - 03/13/2008
I must not like myself very much because I keep finding new ways to make myself go blind staring at stats. My latest area of interest was to look back to see how NBA teams have been doing this year when they try to bounce back from a blowout loss. I was curious because I regularly come across people with two different approaches. Some people say that a team bouncing back from a loss is worth a bet because they will be hungry to erase the embarrassment and because the public will be down on the team, which will create value in the lines. Others argue that the teams are not a good bet because a blowout is a sign of problems that can't be erased in just one game. Both obviously can't be true, and the only way to find out which is closer to accurate this year is by testing.
To run my test I defined a blowout as any game in which a team lost by 15 or more points. The overall results were a victory for those who feel that teams don't bounce back well, but not an overwhelming one - teams covered 116 games after a blowout, and didn't cover 130. That means that they didn't cover 52.85 percent of the time. That's hardly a number to get excited about. It's inconclusive. As with most things with NBA hancicapping, though, more interesting results can be found by drilling down into the numbers a bit. Here are the five most interesting results:
1. Blowouts are surprisingly common - There is only one team in the league, Boston, that hasn't been blown out at some point during the year. Each team has been blown out an average of eight times. Minnesota and Memphis are the kings of the losers, with 17 blowouts each to their credit. They don't share similar success in bouncing back, though - Memphis is just 5-12 ATS in the follow-up games, while Minnesota is a surprisingly solid 10-7 ATS. The Grizzlies are in a particularly ugly skid right now since getting rid of Pau Gasol and giving up on the season - they have been blown out in eight of their last 10 games and they only bounced back to cover once.
2. The West is best - As with most things, the West is better than the East, though they still aren't particularly good at bouncing back. The East was 61-73 ATS in the follow-up games for a .455 winning percentage. The West is at 55-57 ATS, or .491. It is notable, though not surprising, that the West not only covers at a higher rate, but also that the teams in the East have been blown out more times - 134 vs. 112. There are more weak teams in the East, so they would logically lose badly more often.
3. Good teams bounce back better - Exactly half of the teams in the league are above .500. Those teams are a combined 35-23 ATS. That is a winning clip of over 60 percent, and a potentially valuable piece of information. Several teams in the group have covered as many as they haven't, but only one - San Antonio at 0-1 ATS - have covered fewer than they haven't. The teams below .500 have an ATS record of 81-107, or .431. That means that betting against the bad teams is almost as profitable as betting on the good teams in these cases.
4. Twelve teams are profitable - A dozen teams bounce back well enough to pay off. The stars are Denver (6-1 ATS), Toronto (4-1 ATS), and Washington (6-3 ATS). The Lakers (2-0 ATS) and Utah (1-0 ATS) are the only two that haven't failed to cover a bounce back. The other seven profitable teams are Philadelphia (6-4 ATS), Indiana (4-3 ATS), Orlando (3-1 ATS), Minnesota (10-7 ATS), Seattle (8-7 ATS), Dallas (2-1 ATS), and New Orleans (3-2 ATS). Five of those 12 teams have records below .500. Memphis is the most expensive team as we talked about earlier. Besides them, Charlotte (4-9 ATS), Chicago (3-8 ATS) and Atlanta (2-7 ATS) have been the most costly places to put your money.
5. Twice isn't nice - As part of the research, I also noticed cases in which teams were blown out twice in a row to see how they bounced back there. In short, not well. Teams have been blown out twice in a row 39 times this year, and they have only covered the third game 15 times. That's just 38.5 percent, so betting against teams that have been blown out twice is another situation that has been nicely profitable this year. Memphis, again, is the most frequent team to fall into this situation. They have lost badly twice in a row on six different occasions, and they have covered just twice. Miami is next with four occurrences and just one cover. Chicago hasn't covered in three tries. Cleveland and Indiana (both 1-0 ATS) along with Minnesota (3-2 ATS) and Charlotte (2-1 ATS) are the only teams that have been profitable in this situation. Fourteen teams have not lost two in a row by 15 or more points all season.