Betting the NBA Playoffs

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Betting the NBA Playoffs

By Tom Wilkinson – Editor

With the NBA regular season winding down it is time to take a close look at betting the NBA playoffs. The first thing we take at look at when the first round matchups are announced is betting on the first round series winners. It is usually tough to take the high priced favorites in the first round as teams like the Lakers, Kings and Spurs are usually -500 or more to win their first round series. When the number three seed plays the number 6 seed or the number 4 seed plays the number 5 seed we have some betting opportunities. This season the Eastern Conference is extremely wide open and I don’t see anyone having a huge advantage. Taking the underdogs at a price in the East is worth a shot in nearly every series with the exception of the number one versus the number eight as Indiana looks very tough. In the West the top four seeds will be very tough to beat so I don’t see much of a chance going against the Lakers, Spurs, T’Wolves, or Kings.

When betting the NBA playoffs a very popular strategy has been nicknamed the zig-zag theory. It is pretty basic in that you take the loser of the previous game to win the next game. The feeling is that the losing team will really focus on winning the next game while the victorious team may feel a little smug and have a letdown. This theory is at its best in the first round, which just last season, went to a best of seven. Last year in the first round the theory was a very solid 23-17-1. The zig-zag theory is hitting over 57 percent in the first round over the last seven seasons. That is information that you can use to really help your NBA playoff betting. In past seasons, when betting on the NBA playoffs, we could focus on betting against certain teams. Minnesota is a traditional go against team come playoff time. They just have continual trouble doing anything positive in the playoffs. This year will put that theory to the test as the Timberwolves have their best team and may end up the number one overall seed in the west. The Lakers are the publics and the oddsmakers choice to win it all. If the superstar lineup of Shaq, Kobe, and Malone play up to their standards the Lakers will be hard to handle. The Western conference is very tough though and any of the top four seeds will be able to make a strong case for reaching the finals. Remember that the Western Conference has won the last five NBA titles and this year should be no different. Last season in the playoffs the Spurs dominated the pointspread as they won games at nearly a 63 percent clip against the spread. Last season the Pacers were at the bottom of the barrel against the spread in the playoffs going 1-5.

What do we look for in this year’s playoffs? Over the past six years the number one team against the spread in the playoffs is the New Jersey Nets. They have hit 60 percent against the number over that period of time. They could continue that success this season if they have a healthy Jason Kidd. I said earlier to look for underdogs in the East. The conference is really weak after Indiana and I don’t see anyone that can’t make some noise. Taking the points looks to be the way to go in the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference I would look to tread lightly in the first round since the top four seeds will be strong. In the second round, and beyond, I would again look to take the points in most situations. This may also be the year when the zig-zag theory works just as well in the later rounds of the playoffs as it does in the first round. I would look very hard at Minnesota this season as they look to end a lot of playoff futility and have the team to do it this season. It is not easy to come out of the Western Conference but the Timberwolves have more than just Kevin Garnett this year. Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell have given the T’wolves more scoring options and that has made them very difficult to handle. They can be very streaky so I still advise caution, but if they are ever able to break through, this is the year. The Eastern Conference is not as strong, but they do have a solid favorite in my opinion in the Pacers. Indiana has proven very reliable this season as they have the league’s best record but we taint that somewhat because they play in the Eastern Conference. Rick Carlisle’s club is very tough at home though and could prove an interesting challenge for whoever comes out of the war that will be the Western Conference. I don’t see anyone beating the Pacers in the East. Perhaps New Jersey and Detroit can make it close but I see the Pacers in the East.

Pick your spots as the NBA playoffs begin and give the zig-zag theory some serious consideration. I would always look to take the underdogs, especially in the Eastern Conference, and after the first round in the west. I like Minnesota to take on Indiana in the finals, but as in all sports, anything is possible.

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Jay has been watching and following sports since he could walk and turned to betting in his late teens. His favorite sport is MLB and has been producing winners on UltimateCapper for over 15 years. Follow Jay's free sports picks and enjoy the winners.