Will Rested LeBron Offer Cavs Bettors Value in Game 3?

Will Rested LeBron Offer Cavs Bettors Value in Game 3? article feature image

Ezra Shaw via USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James

According to Second Spectrum tracking data, LeBron James is averaging 3.72 miles per hour on the court during the playoffs, the third-slowest player this postseason to average at least 10 minutes per game. However, no one would call the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar slow.


What the data tells us is that King James takes plays off, which means he finds time during game action to rest. Who can blame the guy? LeBron is in his 15th season, played all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career and is averaging 41.7 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Game 3 of the NBA Finals is Wednesday (9 p.m. ET). Each team will have three days to rest and recover, which should benefit LeBron the most, given his mileage. But does the data back up this theory? Using Bet Labs, I pulled every game in LeBron’s playoff career to find the optimal time to bet the four-time MVP.

It has been profitable to bet on LeBron in the playoffs regardless of the number of off days between games. In 237 postseason games, James’ teams are 134-100-3 (57.3%) against the spread (ATS). Rest matters, but not the way you might think.

LeBron is perhaps the greatest athlete to ever play the game. He does things on and off the court that are ridiculous. I assumed, since he is a physical specimen, there would be an advantage to wagering on LeBron when he had more days between games than his opponent. I was wrong.

With an extra day or more of rest than his competition, James has gone 10-11 straight-up and 10-11 ATS. Less rest produced similar results. LeBron has gone 4-7 straight-up and 5-6 ATS when his teams have less time to prepare for a game than the opponent. Clearly, oddsmakers take rest into consideration and adjust the line accordingly.

Where bettors can find an edge is in games when both teams are on equal rest.  In games with equal rest, LeBron has gone 142-63 straight-up and 119-83-3 (58.9%) ATS. More rest, better results:

Game 3 is must-win for Cleveland. The Cavaliers opened as 5-point underdogs. Luckily for the Cavs, Wednesday’s game is in the LeBron rest wheelhouse. Golden State and Cleveland have each had three days off and in this situation, LeBron’s teams are 51-19 straight-up and 44-26 (62.9%) ATS. The line has moved from Cavs +5 to +4.5.

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