In the first game of the 2018 NBA playoffs, the Golden State Warriors dominated the San Antonio Spurs, 113-92. The 21-point win wasn’t the largest margin of victory Saturday, though. The Philadelphia 76ers overcame a first-half deficit to roll past the Miami Heat 130-103 in their playoff opener.
Square bettors are greatly influenced by recent events, and that tendency is magnified during the postseason. One bad performance can cause bettors to jump off a team’s bandwagon, and sportsbooks understand this and shade their lines accordingly.
In Game 1, only 52% of spread tickets were on the Warriors as 8-point favorites. The oddsmakers opened the Dubs as 9.5-point favorites in Game 2 after their impressive victory, and despite the higher line, nearly 60% of bets are on the defending champs. Public bettors are heavy on Philly as well. In the first game of the series, 63% of tickets were placed on the Sixers -5.5. After the easy win and cover, that number is up to 87% with the home team favored by 6.5 points.
The public is chasing the Warriors and Sixers. This could create an excellent opportunity for contrarian bettors to buy back on the Spurs and Heat, but are teams still undervalued after a blowout loss in the NBA playoffs?
Historically, teams are undervalued after ugly losses in the playoffs. Using our Bet Labs software, we determined that teams off a playoff loss of 20 or more points posted a 60-46-1 (56.6%) ATS record from 2005-2015. Squads embarrassed by 25 or more points did even better at 31-19 (62.0%) ATS. Unfortunately, this strategy has cooled in recent years.
In the 2016 and 2017 postseasons, teams that lost their previous game by 20 or more points went 12-22-1 (35.3%) ATS in the next matchup. Oddsmakers are always adjusting their lines to account for recent trends, and as bettors, we must adapt our strategies accordingly.
A few years ago, I’d be betting the Spurs and Heat following bad performances in Game 1, but teams are no longer undervalued after a blowout loss in the playoffs. Back to the drawing board.
Pictured: Spurs guard Manu Ginobili