Over the coming days, a common refrain will be how different the NBA playoffs are compared to the regular season - and it is undeniable that we see a shift when the calendar reaches mid April, May and June.
So what does that mean when it comes to betting on the playoffs? How much regular season knowledge should be cast aside? And which themes take on greater significance? We dig into some of the unique aspects of the NBA postseason and how they impact the odds.
A slower pace
Playoff basketball is defined by the intensity and importance of every single possession. Through some combination of the exacting nature of that style and the increased focus on executing specifically designed plays, the pace of the game slows down in the postseason. Transition/fast break points often dry up too with teams more committed to sprinting back and getting into position.
The knock-on effect for betting on the action is that game totals end up being lower. We are less likely to see teams piling up 120 points a night.
Meticulous scouting, with weaknesses exploited
This is another reason that scoring, both game totals and individual point totals, can drop in the playoffs. By Game 3 or Game 4 in a series, both teams are so well drilled in what the other is doing offensively and defensively that there are few surprises. Counter measures are already in place for head coaches to turn to.
The extensive NBA scouting departments work overtime to review film and prepare reports. As a result, every little weakness is exploited, with teams picking on poor defenders or shaky shooters. Before you bet on a player’s points total, for example, consider whether he is good enough defensively to play his typical minutes in a high stakes playoff game.
Unpredictable scorers are even more valuable
With every strength and weakness scrutinized, the only players immune to the scouting strategies are the unstoppable stars - like Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Kevin Durant. A player on that level is always a big edge but it grows further in the playoffs as a way to bust through even the most masterful defensive game plans.
The hype, the crowd noise and the pressure that comes hand in hand with the playoffs takes some getting used to. This year, we are already seeing some skepticism around the Denver Nuggets for that very reason - many of their players are tasting the postseason for the first time.
While it may only take a game or two for less experienced players and teams to settle, that can sometimes be long enough to swing a series.
Road wins are tougher sledding
The frenzied home crowds in the playoffs make it that much tougher to secure road wins, but one or even two are often required to win a series. Teams that travelled poorly during the regular season are unlikely to fare any better in the playoffs. Though 2019 may be about to trample this trend, with both the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic winning Game 1 on the road on Saturday.
No fatigue factor
Lastly, there is no need to overly worry about older teams or check the schedule for back-to-back games. With rest days built into the schedule, teams are set up to play at their best.
Beyond that, just sit back and enjoy the action!