Every bettor has a system or theory for the NBA Playoffs. Some side with the zig-zag philosophy, playing on the team coming off a loss. Others wager exclusively on the home side or simply stick with the higher seed.
Figuring out this year’s Eastern Conference playoff picture could be as simple as blindly betting the underdog. It’s a practice that has paid big profits during the regular season.
With the Chicago Bulls’ 118-111 overtime win against the New York Knicks as 4-point home pups Thursday, underdogs improved to 32-19-1 ATS (against the spread) in games involving two teams currently seeded No. 2 through No. 7 in the East – New York, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston. That’s a payout rate of 62.5 percent.
While the Miami Heat rule over the conference with an 11-game cushion and the Milwaukee Bucks bring up the rear for playoff-bound teams, the middle of the Eastern Conference elite is about as tight as Kim Kardashian’s maternity pants.
“There is a lot of intensity in those playoff games,” Peter Korner, founder of the Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, told Covers. “We lower the totals a smig and the sides pretty much go how (those teams) played and the scores from the regular season. Playoff intensity means tighter games, we know that and that’s how we gear it.”
The betting favorites are still winning the majority of those games involving two teams ranked No. 2-7, going 30-22 SU, but only cover 37.5 percent of the time. Home favorites are 28-19 SU in those games but just 18-28-1 ATS. Road chalk, including New York Thursday, is a mere 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS heading into Friday.
The Brooklyn Nets are 5.5-point road underdogs Friday visiting the Indiana Pacers, who are the worst bet among those six Eastern Conference contenders. The Pacers are just 5-10 ATS against the other five teams ranked No. 2-7, posting a 7-8 SU mark in those 15 games.
Indiana is currently third in the conference and, if the season ended Friday, would meet the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the postseason. It is 2-2 SU and ATS versus the Hawks this season.
Perhaps the one club to watch in the Eastern Conference playoffs is Chicago, which owns the best ATS mark versus its contemporaries. After Thursday’s win and cover, the Bulls are 12-7 SU and 14-5 ATS against the Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Hawks and Celtics this season.
Chicago, which is +1,800 to win the East, is sitting fifth in the standings and would take on Brooklyn in the opening round, owning a 3-1 SU and ATS record versus the Nets this year. Brooklyn is 9-8 SU and 8-8-1 ATS against teams ranked No. 2 through No. 7 heading into Friday’s game in Indiana.
Second-place New York appears to have the best shot at dethroning Miami – if you go by records – but is just 8-9 SU and 7-10 ATS versus the five teams sitting below it in the Eastern standings. Oddsmakers currently have N.Y. priced at +800 to win the East.
The Knicks are lined up for a first-round date with Boston, which plays to their favor. They own a 3-1 SU and ATS count versus the Celtics – New York’s only winning record against those five teams. Take those games with Boston away and New York is left with a 5-8 SU and 4-9 ATS mark against some possible second and third-round rivals.
That’s unfortunate for New York. The Knicks are one of the few teams that have the Heat’s number, going 3-1 SU and ATS against the defending champs. Too bad they might not live to see a showdown with Miami in the conference finals.