Handicapping the 2012 NBA Playoffs Schedule
by Aaron Smith - 4/27/2012
The regular season has concluded and it is time for some NBA Playoff basketball. All through the condensed regular season we were telling you that the scheduling spots were one of the best angles for NBA handicappers to follow to gain an edge on the books. The NBA schedule changes definitely affected the regular season standings, but now it is time to focus on playoff scheduling.
The NBA wisely chooses to schedule games farther apart in the playoffs so that they can maximize viewership for each series. In a normal year, the change from regular season scheduling to playoff scheduling isn’t huge, but this year it will be a major difference. How will it affect the way the NBA playoffs go?
NBA Playoff Scheduling: How it Works
The playoffs start this year with less of a break than normal. Still, half of the teams in the playoffs will get one day off after the regular season while the rest receive two days off before their playoff series starts. The opening round of the NBA playoffs is scheduled to take two weeks if the series goes to all seven games. This means in the first round there will be no back-to-back games, and many times a team will get two days of rest between games.
The schedule gets slightly busier as the later rounds come along. In fact, the NBA has stated they are leaving open the possibility that there could be a rare back-to-back scheduling spot this year. In a normal year the playoffs get started by about April 15, so the lockout-shortened season will condense the playoff window a little bit as well. In general, most teams will receive one day of rest between games from the second round through the rest of the playoffs.
Who Benefited During Regular Season?
The condensed NBA regular season allowed some teams to benefit from their youth and earn a higher seed than expected in the playoffs. Oklahoma City is one of the youngest teams in the league, and the constant back-to-back spots didn’t seem to slow them down as much as most teams. The Atlanta Hawks went an amazing 14-4-1 against the spread in games with no rest this year. Clearly, the Hawks were beneficiaries of the busy schedule which helped them get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Utah’s youth allowed the team to make a strong push to slide into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
NBA Playoff Scheduling: Teams Who Will Benefit in the Playoffs
Since scheduling in the playoffs is so much different than the regular season, it is important to take a look at which teams might benefit from this change. Several teams in the playoffs rely heavily on veterans. These players often had to play reduced minutes throughout the season. These veterans won’t be saving up their energy once the playoffs get started, because this is when every game counts.
The first team that stands out as major beneficiaries is the Boston Celtics. No team has struggled as much with back-to-back scheduling spots over the past couple years as much as the Celtics. Most playoff games will be played following a single day of rest. In this spot the Celtics were 22-14 ATS this year. They are also 17-7-2 ATS in their last 26 games following two days of rest. The Celtics will be a tough out in this year’s playoffs.
Another team that should benefit from the playoff schedule is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs defied the odds by getting the top seed in the Western Conference despite the brutal schedule this season. Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili rested multiple times this season. The depth the Spurs have will be a major plus because the veteran stars can be given a few minutes to rest each game. Coach Gregg Popovich can feel comfortable that the game won’t get away from them. The condensed regular season gave the bench players much more confidence, and that will likely come in handy at some point during the postseason.
When you are handicapping each game in the playoffs this year, keep in mind that the condensed schedule skewed results a bit during the regular season. It’s a brand new season, and bettors would be wise to not put too much stock in regular season matchups. Consider the slate clean and take advantage of the value on teams who will benefit from the playoff schedule.
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