NBA Handicapping: Trends Involving High Totals
by Aaron Smith - 2/25/2010
The NBA season is a long grind, which gives us plenty of chances to analyze the statistics and see where opportunities may be to profit from betting on these games. At the end of the day, the public is just like they are in other sports; they love to root for points. This brings me to the point of this article, which is to examine how NBA totals that are set quite high by the oddsmakers tend to finish. By looking at this on a team-by-team basis, I suspect we’ll find quite a bit of data that will surprise most of you and help with staying ahead of the books.
An average NBA total is often set somewhere around 195-200 points, but that is obviously dependant on the teams involved in that game. A team such as Phoenix or Golden State will always have a high total, but a team like Detroit rarely has a total set very high at all. For this article, I have looked at every single game in the NBA in 2009-2010 to this point and have examined each team’s ‘over/under’ record when the total is set at 195-199.5, as compared to 200+.
First, let’s take a look at some specific teams, and see how they fare when the totals are set at 195-199.5 as compared to 200 or more.
- The Portland Blazers have had six games between 195-199.5 points and five of those six have gone ‘over’ the posted total. On the other hand, they have had eight games set at 200 or more, and only one of them has gone ‘over’ the posted total.
- The Utah Jazz have had 13 games set between 195-199.5 points, and nine have gone ‘over’ and four ‘under’. The Jazz have had 32 games posted at 200 or higher, and 13 have gone ‘over’ and 19 ‘under’.
- The Washington Wizards have split at eight games ‘over’ and eight ‘under,’ when the total is 195-199.5. Just eight of their 24 set at 200 or higher have gone ‘over’ the posted total.
These are some very interesting numbers, but maybe you are thinking that these teams are not the most potent offenses in the league. That is definitely true; but surprisingly enough, the results prove exactly the same point with the top three offenses in the NBA.
- Phoenix has the top ranked offense in the NBA. The Suns average 109.1 points per game. The oddsmakers obviously know this team scores a ton of points so none of their totals have been set below 200. In their 56 games this year, the ‘over’ has won 24 times and the ‘under’ has won 32 times.
- Denver has the second ranked offense in the NBA. There have been nine occurrences of their total falling below 200 points; and in those games, the ‘over’ has hit eight times and the ‘under’ just once. On the other hand, the total has been set at 200 plus 47 times and 19 have gone ‘over,’ while 28 have gone ‘under’.
- Golden State is the third-ranked offense in the league and easily the worst defensive team in the league. None of their games have been set below 200, but 26 have gone ‘over’ the total and 30 ‘under’ the posted total.
As you can see, even the best offenses in the league continue the trend of games staying ‘under’ the posted total when the number is set at 200 points or more.
Are you wondering how all the games in the NBA have played out at these posted totals? In games where the total is set at 195-199.5 the ‘over’ has won 154 times and the ‘under’ has won 154 times. In games where the total is set at 200 points or more the ‘over’ has won 341 times and the ‘under’ 400 times. This works out to an even 54 percent of games staying ‘under’ the posted total when they are set at 200 points or more.
The single biggest point to take away from this is that in games where the public pushes the total up by pouring money into the ‘over,’ your chances are pretty solid if you are on the ‘under’. Often, the public loves to blindly bet on the ‘over’ with teams like Phoenix and Golden State; and as you can see, that is not a wise move based on the numbers. While blindly playing an ‘under’ on all games posted at 200 points or more isn’t a strategy I would advise, I would certainly think twice before jumping on the ‘over’ in those NBA games with a high total.
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