NBA Betting Tip: Should Bettors Follow Raptors-Warriors Game 1 Line Movement?

NBA Betting Tip: Should Bettors Follow Raptors-Warriors Game 1 Line Movement? article feature image

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry

  • A majority of spread tickets are on the Warriors, but the line has moved toward the Raptors for Game 1 of the NBA Finals (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
  • Using Bet Labs, we determine if it is profitable to follow reverse line movement in the NBA Playoffs.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC). The Golden State Warriors are making a fifth straight appearance and looking for a third consecutive championship. The Toronto Raptors are in the finals for the first time in franchise history.

Oddsmakers opened the Warriors as 1-point road favorites. After watching Steve Kerr’s team sweep the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals without Kevin Durant, the public pounced on the defending champs at a short number. More than 80% of spread tickets are on Stephen Curry and Co.

Interestingly, the wave money hasn’t moved the line in Golden State’s direction. In fact, Toronto is now a 1-point favorite. When a majority of spread bets are on one team but the line swings in the other direction, it is called reverse line movement.

Reverse line movement is an indication of sharp money. Savvy bettors who snagged Raptors +1 when the line opened are sitting pretty and on the same side as the pros.

Though the Raptors are no longer underdogs, is there value following the reverse line movement and betting Toronto?

Since 2005, teams that received less than 50% of bets but saw the line move their way have gone 171-166-9 (50.7%) against the spread (ATS) in the playoffs. according to Bet Labs. There is no edge unless we look at games with lopsided action.

Teams receiving 40% or less of spread bets and see the line move by at least 0.5 point in their direction have gone 69-53-3 (56.6%) ATS. This system improves further when we bet favorites:

Favorites with reverse line movement are a ridiculous 33-18-2 (64.7%) ATS in the playoffs since 2005. A $100 bettor following this system would have returned a profit of $1,315 for a 24.8% return on investment.

Of course, this is a small sample. So bettors should proceed with caution, though there is reason to believe this trend will continue to be profitable.

For starters, betting favorites with reverse line movement has been consistent year-to-year with only two losing postseasons in the past 14 years. Plus, as the playoffs progress there are fewer games to bet, which means each matchup receives more action.

With casual bettors pounding a game there is still value betting favorites even after the line moves.

The public likes the Warriors in Game 1, though the line movement driven by sharp bettors indicates that the Raptors are the smart bet.