First round NBA playoff scores toppling the total

First round NBA playoff scores toppling the total

First round NBA playoff scores toppling the total
By JOSH NAGEL

His team trailing big and the clock winding down, New Orleans Hornets reserve forward Julian Wright pulled up for an essentially meaningless 6-footer on a three-on-one fast break Wednesday night .

However, as all sports bettors are acutely aware, there’s no such thing as a “meaningless” basket if the spread or the total is still doubt. Thus far in the NBA playoffs, it seems almost every game-ending field-goal attempt has one or the other riding on it.

Wright’s somewhat difficult bank shot – not quite a layup, not quite a jumper – graced the glass and went straight through the hoop. The bucket, as many have this postseason, sent over bettors into celebration, as the 108-93 win by the Denver Nuggets clipped the 200.5 total by a half point.

This fortuitous basket was an example of how the ball has literally bounced the way of over bettors in the NBA playoffs, as they have watched the cash flow in bunches on the way to a 12-3 record in the first round.

Even so, two of the totals were decided on the final basket and another, Chicago’s overtime win in Game 1 against Boston, went over because a missed free throw that caused overtime. Reversing these outcomes would make the over’s record a somewhat more balanced – although still profitable – 9-6.

However, others have flown by the total without giving under bettors so much as a reasonable sweat for their money, such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ 119-109 win Tuesday over the Utah Jazz. They buried the total of 211 with plenty of room to spare.

Which begs the question: Are over bettors playing the correct side, getting lucky, or a little of both? Oddsmakers and handicappers alike are making the case for the combination.

“So far, some of the game flows have indeed been surprising, and what we have to decide going forward is what is real and what is actually a bit misleading,” said Covers Expert David Malinsky. “Some of this could create value going forward if we want to begin looking toward the unders.”

Before the playoffs started, oddsmakers stated they were leery of getting beat by the under, a play smart bettors tend to lean toward in the NBA playoffs. The under was 50-35 in last year’s playoffs.

By the same token, they were hesitant to over-adjust for fear of getting burned by the public’s preference of overs, and the increased volume of action the sportsbook see from public bettors during the NBA playoffs. Thus far, this is the poison that has picked them.

“I am a bit surprised at how many overs have come in so far,” said oddsmaker Michael Perry of Logans.com. “We have lost money overall on totals, no question. Not getting crushed, but books are down on totals.”

Explanations for the prevalence of the over in the NBA playoffs depend on whom you talk to. The reasons range from the increased focus and intensity – although that has long been a primary reason for considering the under – to fluky circumstances that you can’t really account for. 

“I think the main reason behind this is that in regular season games, you often see players appear to sleepwalk through stretches of games,” said Perry. “You won’t see any sleepwalking in the playoffs; players are always focused and, as a result, always have the peddle to the ground and looking to score.”

While more efficient offense has been a clear factor, there’s also been a letdown in defense, as Malinsky points out. While the Lakers have been content to simply outscore the Jazz with little regard to defense, the Celtics have suffered from the loss of Kevin Garnett, who anchored the league’s second-ranked defense.

Perhaps the wild card in the whole equation, Malinsky notes, is the unanticipated aberration in the play of certain teams, an occasional buzzer-beating basket notwithstanding.

For example, the Houston Rockets shot 45.3 percent from the field, No. 22 in the league, during the regular season. They have somehow managed to shoot better than 50 percent in each of their first-round games in Portland, both of which sailed over the total. The teams also combined for 22 points in the final 1:03 of Game 2, an abnormally large game-ending burst.   

“That shows you the kind of detail that we are looking for … is there any kind of general pattern in play, or are we seeing isolated instances that do not carry meaning going forward?” Malinsky said.

“So where do we go from here? As always, everything is one game at a time, as we look for the kind of special edges that we can use to win a bet.”

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