In the NBA, it’s all about the playoffs. More than half of the league enters the Big Party, so you know every round filters the quality. In the end, only the best teams remain.
And that, my friends, is where the NBA slogan becomes a reality. That’s where amazing happens. For bettors, though, it starts way before, since you can bet on whether each of the 30 franchises makes the playoffs or not!
Now let’s get into the odds for every team to reach the playoffs.
The NBA playoffs changed its format since the pandemic bubble. Now, a play-in tournament is invoked. It involves four teams (from seventh to tenth seed from each conference).
The seventh and eighth seeds play one game and the winner secures the seventh spot in the standings. The loser of that game faces the winner of the ninth and tenth seed.
The winner of that second game earns the eighth and final playoff spot.
After the play-in tournament, eight seeds proceed to what is known as the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The first seed faces the eighth, the second pits up against the seventh, the third goes against the sixth, and the fourth entertain the fifth seed. This happens the same in both conferences.
From that point on, every series is a best of seven, meaning the teams need to win a total of four games to advance into the next playoffs round.
However, as opposed to other playoff formats like the NFL one, no team has a bye.
Also, the first seed won’t be playing the lowest seed available after the first round. Instead, if they qualify, they will face the winner of the fourth vs. fifth seeds series.
Therefore, the winner of the second vs. seventh series will always go against the winner of the third vs. sixth series.
Ok, maybe this sounds a bit confusing, so let’s use an example. Let’s say at the end of the regular season, here’s how the Western Conference standings play out:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Los Angeles Clippers
3. Utah Jazz
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Denver Nuggets
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Portland Trail Blazers
9. New Orleans Pelicans
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
So, in this case, first, we need to figure out who will be the last two seeds in the conference playoffs. For that, we go to the play-in tournament.
Dallas hosts the Trail Blazers and New Orleans plays at home against the Timberwolves.
Say Dallas beats Portland, so they are cemented as the seventh seed, and will go at it against the Clippers in the first round. As for the Blazers, they will have a second shot at going to the playoffs.
For instance, assume the Timberwolves defeat the Pelicans. In this case, Minnesota now faces Portland for the last spot in the playoffs. The Blazers win, for example, so now they pit themselves against the Lakers.
In the 2019-2020 season, we had a shortened campaign as COVID-19 struck. After months of absence, we had the now infamous “Bubble” to determine a champion.
In 2020-2021, the regular season consisted of only 72 games, due to the little rest teams had in between both seasons. Also, it was a year with the Olympics, and scheduling needed to fasten up.
Now, we are back at the 82 games we’ve been used to since the 1967-1968 season. This means each team plays an average of 3.5 games per week in approximately 165 days.
Divisions are not as big of a deal in the NBA as they are in the NFL. Their purpose is pretty much for scheduling. Each team plays four games against their four divisional rivals for a total of 16 games each.
The teams also play four games against six out-of-division conference teams, for 24 games. Three games are contested against the other four teams in the conference to total 12 games.
Then, teams also play two games against all the teams in the other conference, that’s a total of 30 games.
Each conference has 15 teams. After a team plays against all four teams in their respective division, there are still 10 rivals left.
Next, what follows is a five-year rotation to decide which of those teams are played against four times, and which are played three times.
Another pointer is that before the end of the previous season, every franchise has to list 50 dates where their home court is available. Four have to be Mondays and the other four have to be Thursdays.
The NBA also has official breaks. These are pre-determined dates where no games are contested. Many holidays—except Christmas—and the All-Star weekend offer no NBA action.
There are conflicts due to arena sharing issues. Many teams have the same home court, like the LA Lakers or the LA Clippers, for example. Sometimes, it happens with other sports as well, like the NY Knicks and the NY Rangers (NHL) sharing MSG.
These conflicts must be solved beforehand. There has to be enough time between games so they can convert the court from Knicks to Rangers.
Last but not least, broadcast channels pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to televise these games. Because of this, they have a say as to when games will happen. The tip-off time is able to be moved to fit their broadcasting schedule more effectively.
Betting on the outcome of who becomes NBA champion is a futures bet. There are lots of other ways to bet on single games in the NBA Playoffs. Among those, there is the always present moneyline.
This is the simplest way of betting, as you only need to pick who will win the game outright. The favored team will possess negative odds, meaning you have to risk more than what you will earn on the bet. This encourages bettors to wager on both sides of the bet.
For instance, if the Nets face the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Nets are the home teams and are the favorites, hence their odds are set at -220. This means you need to lay $220 to earn $100 in profits.
The underdogs will go with positive odds. This equals the profit you’ll gain when laying $100 on it. Say the Lakers are +180, so you know that if you place $100 on them, you win $180.
The downside of moneylines is that betting on favorites doesn’t give you much value. For a chance at earning a closer thing to even money, you may want to bet on point spreads.
The spread is set based on a handicap that oddsmakers think will propel action on both sides. Using an example, say the bookmakers project the Lakers to blow the Blazers in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs.
The odds set are Lakers at -9.5, which tells LA would have to win by double digits for their bettors to cash. On the other hand, the Blazers (+9.5) would get the payout as long as they win or lose by nine or fewer points. Most of the spreads are set on -110 odds.
Plenty of NBA Playoffs games end in a close fashion, with late buckets and free throws during the final quarter. So, the confidence of choosing a winner or betting the spread may not be as high. We have an alternate betting style for you.
Betting on the total is the way for you. These bets refer to the combined score between the two teams contesting a game. It usually ranges from 205 to 230 points.
In this bet, you need to select whether the teams playing go over or under the points set by the oddsmakers.
For example, if the line marks a total of 225.5 between the Nets and the Sixers. Brooklyn beats Philadelphia 115-110. In this case, the teams combined for 225 points, which means the under bettors sweat it out but got the job done.
The totals lines are set on the pace and style of each franchise. The oddsmakers also take into consideration the home-court advantage and back-to-back scheduling.
The NBA Playoffs are where the best players step up. You can also place some money on their individual performances on prop bets.
This is a fantastic way of strategy because you can exploit favorable matchups, ride on the players’ momentum, and it can be more predictable. In the playoffs there are no nights off, it’s pedal to the metal, and you can go all-in on that.
Let’s assume we’re entering Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Jazz.
You can get a prop on LeBron James going Over 28.5 points, or to combine points, assists, and rebounds to go Over 46.5. You know LeBron is a big-time player and will put 110% effort into qualifying for the NBA Finals.
Another way to bet here is on futures, but not on the NBA champion. Each playoff series has a future line so you can bet on who wins the best-of-seven affair. You can also bet on how many games it will take.
There are lots of strategies you can employ when betting on the NBA Playoffs. For example, betting on the home side at Game 2 of the series is always an effective betting strategy.
From 2003 to 2020, the team that loses the first game at home (bear in mind it’s always the higher seed) has a record of 49-10 in Game 2. Also, in that same span, road teams that lost the first match, have also lost lots of second games, with a record of 40-111.
However, one of the most popular strategies focuses on the third game. In the last 14 seasons, the team with the higher seeding that enters game 3 with a 2-0 has a 43% of winning the third game. This means betting on the low seeds gives you an edge, as they have a 63-48 record.
Also, remember the public bettors go sky-high in the playoffs. This means they will influence the line movements, so betting early or fading the public may help you get better NBA odds.
These are the teams that qualified for last year’s playoffs.
Out of the 16 teams, you can expect most of them to be in the mix for this upcoming season. You should consider checking the odds of them making the playoffs, look for new faces or heavy departures, and then place the bets. You need to get a better idea of them before putting your money at risk.
For example, the Washington Wizards lost perennial All-Star PG Russell Westbrook. But in exchange, they added a much-needed depth into their roster.
Faces like PG Spencer Dinwiddie, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, F Montrezl Harrell, F Kyle Kuzma, and G Aaron Holiday will make them a better team.
Another example is the Lakers. Poised to be a top contender, they have a great roster, but most of them are 30 years or older. 11 of their 16 players are over that age mark.
Fatigue may be an issue to consider, as well as injuries, or load management that could affect the seeding come playoffs time.