Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James
- The NBA's Christmas Day slate features five marquee matchups: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz.
- Using our Bet Labs software, we found a few strategies you should know before betting on Christmas basketball.
Unwrap your presents early this year so you’re ready for the loaded five-game NBA slate on Christmas Day.
- Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
- Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets (3 p.m. ET, ABC)
- Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (5:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
- Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
- Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
If you are going to bet the NBA’s holiday games, here are a few strategies to follow when Santa Claus comes to town:
Note: Most of the sample sizes on these trends are small, so use the research below as a starting point, not as the only factor, in your decision-making process.
Fade the Public
Christmas Day has long been the NBA’s unofficial starting point for the casual fan. The holiday games feature the league’s biggest stars and best teams.
With the NBA offering marquee matchups and no other sports to bet, the Christmas Day games will be flooded with public money.
A simple strategy to profit in sports betting is to fade the public. Whichever team recreational gamblers load up on, bet the other side. This approach works best in heavily-wagered games, like those on Christmas.
Since 2005, teams receiving less than 50% of spread tickets have gone 33-21 against the spread (ATS) on Christmas Day per Bet Labs. This strategy has been profitable in nine of the past 13 seasons.
Christmas Day Unders
Popularized by Barstool’s Big Cat, betting unders Christmas Day has been the gift that keeps on giving. Only once in 13 years has it not been profitable to bet the under in every Christmas Day game.
Most gamblers prefer wagering on the over and cheering for points.
Since Christmas Day games are some of the most heavily bet in the regular season, it is fair to assume that oddsmakers inflate the over/under anticipating increased action on the over from the public, which would create value betting the under.
If full-game unders have been profitable, one would expect first-half and second-half unders to be as well. However, since 2005 the first-half under is only 28-27-1 (51%) in NBA Christmas Day games, while the second-half under is 37-18-1 (67%).
What gives? One theory is that players get up for these games. Motivation is high and there is almost a playoff atmosphere.
This can lead to increased defensive intensity, especially in the second half when the game is on the line and this promotes a lower-scoring environment compare to the first half.