2023 NBA Playoffs Analysis: 3 Things to Consider for Your 1st Round Picks

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Has sports betting been “solved”? For that matter, what about sports themselves? Pretty much every NBA team and NBA handicapper is deep into analytics now, relying on sharp models for decision-making while letting the computers do the hard work of crunching the numbers that inform said models.

Don’t imprison yourself in a glass cage of logic. Numbers can help us all make smarter decisions, but in basketball and betting on basketball, it’s all about reacting to your opponents and what they’re doing.

Think of it like poker. No-Limit Hold’em has been “solved” to a great extent, but only in the same sense as Tic-Tac-Toe; if you know what you’re doing, you won’t lose (in the long run), and maybe your opponent will screw up and give you a pathway to victory.

So Who Is the Opponent?

When it comes to making NBA picks, your opponents are the other bettors in the marketplace – not the online sportsbooks. They are the marketplace. They’re the ones who build their online kiosks, set the prices, and process your wagers.

Most other bettors aren’t putting this much thought into their selections. They bet with their hearts, creating market inefficiencies that we can exploit by betting the other side. And now that the playoffs are here, casual bettors are coming out of the proverbial woodwork to throw their “dead” money around.

Let’s scoop up some of that for ourselves, shall we? Here are three things to keep in mind before you hammer the remaining first-round games on the NBA odds board.

1. The Under Rules the Betting World

It’s the least sexy pick of all the single bets (point spread, moneyline, total), but that’s where the Under gets its betting value. Casual fans tend to bet the much sexier Over because then they get to cheer for the thing everyone wants to see happen: buckets.

During the regular season, the Under enjoys only a very small advantage, far too small to just auto-bet every single game blindly and make a profit – in fact, you’ll lose money in the long run because of the vigorish.

Now that it’s the playoffs, it’s a whole other story. The Under went 51-34-2 during the 2022 postseason; we’re not saying it’s an auto-bet at this point, but you will find even larger profit margins up for grabs, which means more opportunities to bet larger amounts with the best US sportsbooks.

2. Watch Out for Big Favorites

The underdog is a natural counterpart to the Under when it comes to sports betting. Casual fans tend to be overly impressed with the favorites, pushing those point spreads higher and higher and leaving all the betting value on the other side.

Generally speaking, you’ll find the most value by fading the biggest favorites. Playoff teams laying more than eight points went 2-8 ATS last year, although they’re off to a 3-1 ATS start in 2023, with the Milwaukee Bucks the only blemish after Giannis Antetokounmpo got hurt during their 130-117 Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat (+9 away).

3. Home Teams Early, Road Teams Late

You see it all the time: The home team wins the first two games, then everything starts to fall apart. Dating back to 2018, home teams are:

  • 42-33 ATS in Game 1
  • 46-28-1 ATS in Game 2

Meanwhile, road teams are:

  • 23-16 ATS in Game 6
  • 13-4 ATS in Game 7

The struggle is real.

It makes sense that the road team in Game 7, which is normally the series underdog, would have a much better record than expected here – they did manage to extend the favorites to seven games, after all. Bet accordingly, and may the sphere be with you.