It's a good time to be looking at what we have learned so far from the NBA playoffs. Yesterday was an off day for all eight teams remaining, and all four series are tied at 1-1. That means that essentially we have four best-of-five series to decide who will contest the conference championship.
So, what have we learned so far? And how can it help us going forward? Let's take a look:
The Wizards are kings: Up to this point the Washington Wizards have been the best bet in the playoffs. They have played six games, winning five and covering the spread in each of the wins. They have been versatile, too - 3-1 as underdogs and 2-0 as favorites. All four underdog efforts have come on the road, too, so they have taken care of business nicely. They have also gone "over" in four of their last five, so they have been kind to totals bettors, too.
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Of course, none of that matters anymore after things crashed down for the team on Thursday. It was announced that John Wall has five different non-displaced fractures in his wrist and hand. He's very likely done for the series and beyond. It doesn't necessarily have to be a fatal blow - the Clippers won one and should have won two this week without Chris Paul - but it makes the team a fundamentally different one. They were ineffective in the one game they played without him so far, and given the lineup they have that isn't likely to change much. They are 5-0 ATS in these playoffs with Wall and 0-1 ATS without him. That latter number isn't likely to improve in any hurry now.
Too much love for Golden State: The Warriors are like a perfect storm for public betting love. They are a wildly-exciting offensive team that is defensively disciplined. They are led by the MVP. They are all but unbeatable at home. And they were a strong bet during the regular season.
Given all that, then, it can't be a real surprise that the team isn't covering spreads this postseason. They are just 2-4 ATS this postseason. They covered just once in their sweep of New Orleans, and flopped as favorites at home last time out in their shocking home loss to Memphis.
They obviously haven't been bad - except for that last game. They just haven't been as good as the almost impossible expectations of the betting public in the face of all the hype. Barring another game or two like the last one, this team will keep being a public darling and will keep finding it tough to cover spreads like they were earlier in the year.
Houston is destroying totals: The Rockets are taking a unique approach in these playoffs. They are totally ignoring defense and hoping that they can win a crazy shootout. Their 112.4 points scored per game are by far the most of any playoff team this year. The 110.9 per game they have given up are also 6.5 points more than any other team in the league, though.
When a team is averaging more than 223 points per game combined it's no wonder that they have gone over the total in five of seven games. The Clippers aren't exactly a low-scoring squad, so this trend could easily continue.
Betting on the better team has been sound: The theory of handicapping should be simple - pick the better team and bet on them. So far in the playoffs that has been sound. Six of the eight remaining playoff teams have been at least slightly profitable in the postseason ATS. Combined, the eight teams remaining are 32-26-1 ATS. That's a solid 55 percent cover rate - more than enough to make a nice long-term profit. In the first round those eight teams were 24-18-1 ATS - an even more profitable 57 percent cover clip. So, there you have it - betting and winning is easy if you just bet on the better team.
No Love means nothing so far: More correctly, we just don't know what the absence of Kevin Love has meant for bettors so far. The team is 1-1 straight up and ATS in the two games he has been gone. They have been reasonable favorites at home in both games, though - 5.5 and 4.5 points. In other words, the series has gone in a way that can't be seen as surprising from a betting perspective - and not necessarily any different than it would have with Love.
It is going to take a while to see what long term impact - if any, ultimately - this all has for bettors.
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