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By Marc Lawrence
NBA Zig Zags…Up In Smoke
Long before “The Gold Sheet” first called out the premise, Zig Zags were primarily recognized as popular rolling papers for those who enjoy their smoke of choice.
In NBA handicapping circles, Zig Zags are trendy applications that have been profitable moneymakers during the playoffs.
The premise is simple:
‘Play On’ a team off a playoff loss in its very next game.
The theory is that in a short series involving imminent elimination, a team in more inclined to bounce back with a good effort off a losing performance than it is to continue its losing ways.
How have these plays held up of late? You might be surprised.
Here are pointspread results of NBA Playoff Zig Zags from 1991 through 2013.
Game On, Dude
Overall: 745-661-36 (52.9%)
Game Two: 186-147-13 (55.8%)
Game Three: 188-151-6 (55.4%)
Game Four: 153-155-7 (49.6%)
Game Five: 117-118-6 (49.7%)
Game Six: 72-67-2 (51.7%)
Game Seven: 29-23-2 (55.7%)
The strength of NBA Zig Zags appears to be in Game Two where they become a near 56% point-spread play on the blind.
That’s especially true for home teams off a Game One home loss as they are 50-33-1 ATS (60.2%), including a spotless 4-0 SU and ATS as an underdog.
Burn Baby Burn
Like all things that are popular, though, they eventually burn out and revert back to the norm.
A combination of the ‘law of averages’ and an adjustment by the odds makers has seen the NBA Zig Zags go up in smoke since 2001.
That’s confirmed by the fact that these plays slipped dramatically the last 13 years (2001-2013), going 434-412-26 – or 51.3% - overall as opposed to a 311-249-10 mark – or 55.5% - in games played from 1991-2000.
Talk about a buzz kill.
Round ‘Em Up
Round One: 351-315-20 (52.7%)
Round Two: 227-195-7 (53.7%)
Round Three: 167-151-9 (52.5%
Round Four: 56-48-3 (53.8%)
While it appears there is hold no discernable edge between rounds, it’s interesting to note that the largest profits are derived by home teams in Round Two as they are 124-103-4, including 76-48-3 when playing off a double-digit defeat.
Planting the Seed
No. 1 Seeds: 101-95-5 (51.5%)
No. 2 Seeds: 100-80-3 (55.5%)
No. 3 Seeds: 87-75-9 (53.7%)
No. 4 Seeds: 76-68-1 (52.7%)
No. 5 Seeds: 69-62-2 (52.6%)
No. 6 Seeds: 55-53-2 (50.9%)
No. 7 Seeds: 39-58-4 (40.2%)
No. 8 Seeds: 57-43-5 (57.0%)
Note these results are since the 1996 season, when our database first began charting seeds.
Disparate results abound between No. 7 and No. 8 seeds.
Digging deeper, No. 7’s are a not-so-lucky 3-15-1 (16.6%) as underdogs of 9 or more points, while No.8’s are 12-5 (70.5%) as a ‘pick’ or favorite.
Rocky Mountain High
So then where is it we can still expect to catch the best buzz possible with NBA Zig Zags these days, you ask?
Twist these two up for size and remember, no bogarting:
1) Double Digit Dogs are 44-23-2 (65.6%) and…
2) Favorites of 4 ½ points or more off a loss of 20 points or more are 30-9 (76.9%).
After all, they make the best ‘sense’… if you know what I mean.
Re: Zig-Zag Theory
NBA Playoffs 'Zig-Zag Theory' works, depending on the matchup
By Brian Covert
In everyday vernacular, zig zagging is an effort to avoid something. However, in betting parlance when one is zig zagging - laying money on a team in a playoff series that had lost the previous game - it means you’ve spotted an opportunity and are heading right for it.
The real trick in adhering to this theory is knowing when to zig and when to zag.
“Blindly betting on teams that lost the previous game is not a long-term winning strategy,” explains Covers Expert Steve Merril. “You have to pick specific situations. Teams that are blown out usually bounce back with a strong effort as their opponent often overlook them, plus the oddsmakers sometimes inflate the lines higher.”
Merril goes on to extol the virtues of the Class-A teams in these situations like the Heat, Spurs, and Thunder and playing money on them after a tough loss. These thoughts are echoed by fellow professional bettor Teddy Covers, who also believes the perceived competitiveness/non-competiveness of a series has a lot to do with the results and how the lines are set.
“The zig-zag theory does very well in competitive series but tends to fail in less competitive series where one team has a clear advantage over their opponent,” says Teddy Covers. “The zig-zag theory also fails when a team is simply priced incorrectly by the betting marketplace. Bettors got hammered trying to zig-zag against the Mavs when they won the title, as Rick Carlisle’s squad went 12-1-1 ATS in their first 14 playoff games on their way to the championship.”
In fact, that Mavs run just may have been a sign of a larger trend that has seen any kind of profits made form zig zagging diminish. As Covers Expert Marc Lawrence discovered in his research (looking at results from 1991 to 2013), the overall successful instances of the zig-zag theory playing out dropped from 55.5 percent between 1991 and 2001 to just 51. percent since.
“Like all things that are popular, they eventually burn out and revert back to the norm,” Lawrence says. “A combination of the ‘law of averages’ and an adjustment by the oddsmakers has seen the NBA zig zags go up in smoke since 2001.”
This trend won’t stop professionals like Merril from looking for opportunities though, seeing particular potential in zig zagging totals this time of year.
Bettors can often find value going against misleading or extreme scores – both high and low – when a team suddenly shoots a hot percentage or suffers an uncharacteristic cold night from the floor.
“The oddsmakers often incorrectly adjust totals based on the previous scores in a best-of-7 series and this can lead to value with a zig-zag approach to betting totals,” says Merril, “especially when the true pace or tempo of a game was actually opposite of what the previous final scores would seem to indicate.”
Basketball bettors will get to put the infamous zig-zag theory to the test when the NBA Playoffs tip off Saturday.