NBA Playoff Betting: How to Make Money Betting the NBA Playoffs
by Trevor Whenham - 04/07/2009
The NBA Playoffs are just around the corner - two months of what will hopefully be far more interesting than long stretches of the regular season. Betting success in the playoffs requires a different approach than the regular season - teams are playing at full intensity for perhaps the first time in months, and the stakes are as high as they can be. To help you get ready for that change in mindset here are five NBA Playoffs betting tips to help you start thinking like a playoff bettor:
Don't get too upset crazy - There is an occasional upset in the first round of the playoffs, like when the Warriors stunned the Mavericks as a No. 8 seed in 2007. For the most part, though, the first round of the playoffs is incredibly true to form. Twice in the last five years the first round has been exactly to form - the higher seed winning each time. Golden State's shocker was the first time since 1999 that a top seed had been knocked off. It's not that surprising when you consider the gulf in talent between the top two or three teams in a conference and the rest. Upsets are fun to watch and fun to pick, but the first round of the NBA Playoffs is not the place to be picking them. If you find safe to be boring, then just skip betting on the playoffs.
Go beyond the surface - The NBA is a star-driven league, so it can be very easy to get seduced by the big names. We know that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are pretty darned good players, but neither one of them will single-handedly win their team a championship. To do well betting on the NBA Playoffs it's crucial to go beyond what you read in the headlines or from the talking heads to see what really makes teams tick and what gives them challenges. What kind of teams do the big teams tend to lose to? Do they struggle with travel? Are their big name players in good form? How do they do against strong defensive teams? How about run-and-gun offenses? If you rely on just what the experts are talking about and people are saying then you are going to be in serious betting trouble. The more you dig, the better off you'll be in the long run.
Think ahead - Teams can find themselves in serious trouble if they look beyond their current round and onto their future opponents. You can gain a serious edge by doing the same thing, though. Once the playoff field is set but before any games have been played it can be a very useful exercise to map out how you see things turning out - to fill out your bracket like you would with the NCAA Tournament. You want to do more than just pencil in winners, though - you also want to think about how the series will play out and which players will emerge as key pieces of the winning puzzle. Then, once the playoffs start, you can see how closely the games match your expectations. If things stay on track then you are in good shape. If they start to stray from your expectations, though, then you try to determine what is going on and what it means for the rest of your beliefs and assumptions. It's like you are establishing a baseline from which you can track the playoffs.
Matchups mean everything - It's not as simple as assuming that the better team is always going to beat the lesser team. You need to do more work that that if you really want to be in good position to cash in on the playoffs. Some teams just seem to struggle with other teams, even if it doesn't make any sense. For example, things could work out this year so that Orlando would play Detroit in the first round. There is little question that Orlando is by far the better team this year - they have 20 more wins, score significantly more, play roughly equivalent defense, and have a better core of star players. The Magic would seem like a lock. The only problem is that the Pistons have somehow beat the Magic all three times the teams have met this year. That doesn't mean, of course, that the Pistons would upset the Magic in the playoffs. It does mean, though, that you would want to look closely at that matchup to see if you can figure out why Detroit has been successful, and if the conditions are in place for them to continue to succeed.
Injuries - It should go without saying, but a team that is healthy stands a far better chance of excelling in the playoffs than one that is suffering injuries to key pieces of their puzzle. Boston won't be the team that they are on paper if Kevin Garnett doesn't return to action soon and quickly find form, or if Rajon Rondo's recent injury turns out to be anything more than a passing issue. San Antonio isn't the same team it was a couple of days ago before Manu Ginobili went down for the season. You need to be on top of injuries, but it has to go further than just that. You can get yourself in trouble if you assume that a team is doomed because they are without a marquee star. The public will likely assume that they will be, so you can often find real value by spotting situations in which the public will overestimate the impact of injuries.