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Home Court Advantage for NBA Betting by Jeremy Martin
Sports bettors have always bought into the myth that there are a "set" number of points assigned to the home team when the point spread is devised. Most people believe that the home team in the NBA and NFL automatically gets three points before other determinants are factored into the line. Bookies say this is untrue, however, and that there are a number of factors that go into determining the value of each home team.
According to Jeff Sagarin, a statistician for USA Today, home court in the NBA has been worth 2.33 points thus far this season. In the NFL, home field has counted for 2.58 points. Home court/field advantage is decidedly more significant in college athletics. College football home field advantage has been calculated at 3.85 points this season while college basketball has equated to 3.70 for home court advantage.
Therefore, home court in the NBA has been deemed the least important points-wise for these four major betting sports.
One of the main reasons that home court is less of a factor in the NBA is the grueling schedule of the league. Every team plays a multitude of back-to-back games during the course of the season. It is not uncommon for a home team to be jetlagged after taking a red-eye flight after a road game the previous night.
"Just as important as 'home' and 'road' is who it is and where it
is and how the schedule has been recently for those teams," said Doug
Beil, race and sportsbook manager for Terrible's Hotel/Casino in Las
Vegas. "There are always points assigned (to the home team), but I
think it always fluctuates and varies depending on the team and how
they (play) at home. I think that it is dangerous to make it a general
three points for every team no matter what at home."
Some NBA teams play great at home and they play horribly on the road. In rare cases, certain teams play solid on the road but they don't get the job done on their home court. The home fans are a major factor for some teams while fan apathy and empty arenas are a point spread influence for others.
There are several long road trips that every NBA team has to deal with during the course of the season. Teams that play several consecutive road contests tend to play worse on the back end of these trips, thus increasing the point spread value for these home teams in the eyes of the oddsmakers. These long road trips can be even more pronounced when it is a team from the far west taking a long trip east or vice-versa.
"You will see those teams on back-to-back road games or three road games in four nights," commented Beil. "More often than not you will see that starts to take a toll on teams. If the (Detroit) Pistons were to travel to Portland and play one road game, who knows, the spread might be close to 'pick'em or Portland might be a small favorite. But if Detroit has just made a West Coast road trip where they played the Suns, Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and then at the end of all that in a week they play Portland, I think you would see that the handicappers are certainly going to look at that as more of an advantage for Portland than if (Detroit) just showed up to play (them) on the first night."
Injuries are another cause for the fluctuation in home court value in the NBA. Since there are only five players on the court for each team at any time, a key injury on a team can cause a huge fluctuation in the point spread for a particular game. A superstar that is injured can mean a difference of as many as six or seven points in the line. Even the NBA's toughest players will likely miss a few games throughout the course of the season. If a key player is out for the home team, its home value is significantly decreased. At the same time, a visiting team with an injured superstar can make a home team an even larger favorite in the eyes of those that set the lines.
Home underdogs have been considered a sharp play in the NFL for many years. However, Beil contends that the home dog is not as much of a factor when it comes to NBA betting.
"I don't think it is as big of a deal as it is in the NFL," he said. "In the NFL, it has pretty much been a long standard that home dogs cover (at a high rate). In the NBA it probably fluctuates more and it depends more on the circumstances."