NBA Playoffs Betting


Along with the NCAA Tournament, the NBA Playoffs is the most popular annual basketball event in the world. 16 teams start the postseason, with each round consisting of a best-of-seven series. This format usually sees the best teams prevail in the first round, with the competition tightening up far more in the second round. And once you get into the conference finals and NBA Finals, the games get even more intense.

This creates quite a challenge from a bettor's perspective. However, it certainly doesn't mean that you can't make some good profits through NBA Playoffs betting. The key things that you need to know are the differences between the nature of the postseason and regular season, when you're likely to find soft lines, and how star power can affect lines.

Postseason Play - A Different Beast

NBA players often catch a lot of flack for not playing tough defense on every possession. Of course, when you're pitted against an 82-game schedule with lots of practices and conditioning in between, it's hard to stay motivated night in and night out.

The playoffs are a different story, though, since players realize what's at stake. The NBA Playoffs give stars and role players alike a bigger stage to showcase their skills and work towards a bigger contract. So you're going to see very physical defense, which typically slows down the game and creates lower scores. Meanwhile, referees understand this so they let a lot more fouls go, thus lowering shooting percentages.


Taking all of this into account, physical teams with athletic veterans tend to do very well in the playoffs - even when they don't have marquee names. Take the Memphis Grizzlies from the 2013 NBA Playoffs, for example, who grabbed the Western Conference's fifth seed. They featured an unheralded roster led by Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince. And despite ceding home court advantage to the LA Clippers (first round) and Oklahoma City Thunder (second round), the Grizzlies won both of these series thanks to gritty, defensive play.

Memphis was eventually swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. However, they did manage to rock the betting world by beating the spread several times. So the point is that you can often find good value with teams that play excellent defense, even if they don't have a LeBron or Kevin Durant.

One more thing worth mentioning here is that bettors shouldn't be shocked by low totals lines for playoff games. As previously described, better defense and fewer foul calls makes for some low-scoring and somewhat ugly contests.

Finding the Soft Lines

An important and general tip that punters should know with regard to any sport is that soft lines become rarer as you advance in the playoffs/tournament. The simple reason why is that these games are more high profile, so sportsbooks devote more time and energy into creating lines that balance out action on both sides. NBA Playoffs betting is no different, especially as you move towards the conference finals and NBA Finals.

Case in point, you'll generally find the softest lines in the first round and conference semifinals. For one thing, bookmakers have more games to cover, meaning a larger number of lines leads to a few soft ones here and there. More importantly, though, is that you'll get matchups between two teams with vastly different styles that can make the final score unpredictable.

A good example of this was when the Grizzlies played the Thunder in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals. This was your classic offense vs. defense matchup, with Oklahoma City scoring 105.7 PPG (third in NBA) during the regular season and Memphis holding opponents to 89.3 PPG (first in NBA). Making things even more unpredictable was the fact that the Thunder had home court advantage, yet their second best-player, Russell Westbrook, was out with an injury. Everything added up to make it difficult for bookmakers to create accurate lines each game.

The Effect of Star Players and Popular Teams


Just as much as any other popular international sport, NBA basketball has its share of big-time stars and world-famous teams. Much like football (soccer) stars in Europe and South America, famous hoops players like LeBron, Kobe and Carmelo are simply referred to by their first name. And when they're involved in a playoff series, you can bet that this will be reflected in the betting line.

Casual punters tend to gravitate towards players they know. So when it comes to NBA Playoffs betting, a team like Miami, which has LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, will draw action from the public just based on name recognition alone.

The same effect is caused by the NBA's most historic franchises. Teams like the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have been around for a long time and have become very famous. Plus, they're in large markets so their hardcore fan base is already big. Sometimes fans will bet on these beloved teams without even considering the opposition. Now, we're not saying that you fade these teams without studying the matchup. But just keep in mind that, even during the playoffs, you can find some soft lines when the Celtics, Bulls, Lakers and Knicks are involved.

The NBA Playoffs offer dozens of exciting games to bet on. So when late April rolls around, be ready to wager on some of the most intense basketball that you'll ever see!