How To Win Bets on Basketball Point Spreads

Basketball point spreads level the playing field to make even the most significant mismatches interesting for basketball bettors.

Find out what the spread means in the NBA, how to read basketball spreads, and some tips and strategies for tackling the NBA spreads.

How do point spreads work in basketball?

The point spread is the most popular way to wager when it comes to betting basketball odds. In its simplest form, the point spread levels the playing field in any game, no matter the mismatch.

Oddsmakers analyze both teams and consider the current form, the venue, and critical injuries when calculating how many points separate the two sides.

How to read basketball spreads

Every point spread has a favorite and an underdog.

The negative value (-) indicates the point spread favorite before the point spread, and that team must win the game by more than that number for bettors to win their wager. In this example, the New York Knicks are the favorite at -2.5 against the spread (ATS), meaning they would need to win by at least three points to cover the spread.

Team Spread
Boston Celtics +2.5 (-110)
New York Knicks -2.5 (-110)

The underdog has a positive value (+) in front of its point spread, and that team can either win outright or lose by less than that spread to win the bet. In this example, the Boston Celtics are the point spread underdog at +2.5, meaning they can lose by two points or less or win the game to cash the bet.

Vig or juice: The cost of placing a bet

Point spread odds include a second set of odds beside them. The odds are known as the vig or the juice and they are the cost of placing the bet. In the example above, the Celtics +2.5 has a vig of -110. This means in order to win $100, a bettor would have to wager $110.

When the vig is a positive number the bettor stands to profit more from the same wager. If the vig was +110, bettors win $110 on a $100 bet.

NBA ATS betting strategies

Now that you know how NBA spreads work, here are some point spread betting tips and strategies to follow.

Beat the closing number Beat the closing number

NBA odds are usually posted around 24 hours before tipoff but can be as late as the morning off the game. And as the old saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. NBA point spread lines see the most movement shortly after sportsbooks post them. 

There isn’t much that gets past NBA oddsmakers these days regarding injuries and current form. Still, the best way to find market inefficiencies is to bet early before the numbers settle in. That said, make sure to shop around and find the best number. Not all books are the same. Use our odds comparison tool to find the best price for your best.

Count on current form on the court Count on current form on the court

Basketball is a game of runs. It isn’t out of the norm to see 20-point swings in individual games, so hot and cold streaks are commonplace. Before placing a spread bet, check to see how a team has been shooting over a week or so. 

Are they scorching the mesh or shooting bricks? You can sometimes find point spread value with a bad team on a hot shooting streak, or vice versa. Use our NBA teams page to research how a team has done lately.

Know your NBA matchups Know your NBA matchups

Just like in any other sport, basketball teams have strengths and weaknesses. When trying to find the best NBA point spread bets, look closely at how those attributes match up against that day’s opponent by using our scores and matchups page.

If a team struggles to defend on the perimeter and faces an elite three-point shooting team, make sure you account for how that could change the narrative and bet accordingly.

Track Injuries and load management Track Injuries and load management

An 82-game NBA season can be a grind. Like any other major sport, injuries can play a significant role in determining a team’s success when covering a point spread. NBA superstars will carry the most impact on basketball odds whether they’re playing or not. Still, there may be only one or two players (sometimes even none) on a team that will move a line depending on their availability.

Load management has become the trendy phrase around the NBA to help those superstars with the grind. Too many games in a week? Take the day off. Some players, mainly if they are just off an injury, won’t play on back-to-back nights. Make sure to keep a close eye on our injury page to see who might be in or out.

NBA betting tips and strategies

Make smarter NBA bets with Covers. These guides dive into other ways you can bet on NBA action:

NBA Moneyline Betting Tips and Strategies

NBA Over/Under Betting Tips and Strategies

NBA Parlay Betting Tips and Strategies

NBA point spread FAQs

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