Sean Murphy is the lead handicapper for The Miller Group.
It's playoff time baby!
As far as I'm concerned, this is the single best time to make money over the course of the entire betting calendar.
Following a couple of nights off, the NBA's 16 best will throw down starting Saturday. I'm going to outline some of the strategies I use to make money in the postseason.
I won't bore you with meaningless trends or mathematical nonsense. These are simply tried and true betting philosophies that have put me on the winning side in the playoffs over the last several years.
Overs early, unders late
If you're going to play overs, the time to do it is in the early stages of a series.
That would seem to spin common logic on its head, as one would assume there would be some sort of feeling out process in the early going.
The reality is teams tend to bring an abundance of energy in Games 1 and 2, leading to more free flowing contests. Once the intensity starts to pick up and the teams get to know each other better, we start to see more contested shots, more physicality and less scoring. As an added bonus, we tend to see inflated totals after high scores are posted early in the series.
For example, take last year's first round matchup between the Mavericks and Hornets. Games 1 and 2 produced 196 and 230 points, both sailing over the posted total. Games 3 through 5 resulted in only 184, 181, and 193 points. All three of those games went under.
Watch for that same story to unfold in several first-round series this year.
Fade high scoring low seeds
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a run-and-gun team. How many times have the Suns burned your bankroll during the playoffs in recent years?
Thankfully, the Suns aren't around this spring. That doesn't mean there aren't other teams to stay away from.
It's one thing to put up big offensive numbers during the regular season, but doing so in the playoffs is another matter entirely.
I'm not interested in fading those offense-oriented higher seeds, rather those from five through eight.
The 2008 Denver Nuggets fit that bill. They went into the playoffs as the eight seed, getting there by way of an up-tempo offense lead by Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Their playoff run was short, as the Lakers disposed of them in four straight games. The Nuggets didn't cover a single pointspread.
One such team I'll be looking to fade this postseason is the Chicago Bulls. They fell in love with their offense too much down the stretch. They did eclipse the century mark in 12 of their final 15 games, but it came at the expense of their defense. I don't see them matching up well with any of the East's big three, all of which play excellent lockdown defense.
Ignore the zig-zag theory
I've never been a proponent of this playoff betting strategy which tells you to play on the team that lost the previous game. This theory doesn't hold much water these days, as oddsmakers caught onto it long ago.
I actually see value in betting the opposite. Play on a team that is coming off a win, particularly when their next game is at home. Generally, oddsmakers will overvalue the losing team from the previous game, assuming that they're going to show more fight. A lot of times, talent wins out.
In the opening round last year, teams that won Game 1 at home SU and ATS went 4-1 SU and ATS in Game 2. Two years ago, the situation arose only three times in the first round, with the home team proceeding to win and cover in Game 2 twice.
Betting elimination games
When it comes to elimination games, I have a couple of guidelines I follow.
First, I try to avoid betting against teams that have the opportunity to close out a series at home. That should be a no-brainer in today's NBA, where home court means everything.
Second, when a team is going for a sweep, bet that team. NBA players have a tendency to quit when faced with the daunting and nearly impossible task of rallying from a 3-0 series deficit. I've noticed it more so in the NBA than any other professional sport.
As a general rule of thumb, the earlier in a series a team is facing elimination, the less likely it is that they win and subsequently cover the spread in that game.