NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Tip: Fade Trendy Underdogs in the Playoffs

NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Tip: Fade Trendy Underdogs in the Playoffs article feature image
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Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

  • There is lopsided betting action on the Warriors (+1) in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (9 p.m. ET, ABC).
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze how popular underdogs have performed against the spread in the NBA Playoffs.

The Golden State Warriors are the second-most popular playoff underdog since at least 2005. As of Thursday morning, 74% of spread tickets are on the Warriors as 1-point underdogs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (9 p.m. ET, ABC).

The lopsided action on the Warriors is not surprising. Steve Kerr’s team is making its fifth consecutive trip to The Finals and looking to win a third straight title. The team will be without Kevin Durant, but that hasn’t mattered much as Golden State is 34-4 straight up and 24-13-1 against the spread (ATS) without KD the past three seasons, including wins in 31 of its last 32 games in this spot.

Plus, the public is more likely to take underdogs in the playoffs than the regular season. According to Bet Labs, NBA favorites have received a majority of bets in 13,708 of 17,760 (77.2%) regular season games since 2005. Over that same span, postseason favorites have received at least 51% of spread tickets in 758 of 1,248 (60.7%) games.

Why the difference? Many recreational gamblers believe that a team must be talented and well-coached to make the postseason. If that’s the case, then it reasons to expect a competitive game and take the points.

Unfortunately for casual bettors, well-liked pooches have underperformed in the postseason. Since 2005, underdogs receiving a majority of bets have gone 204-240-14 (45.9%) ATS in the playoffs.

Since squares are more willing to bet on underdogs in the playoffs, oddsmakers are less likely to inflate the line for the favorites, which creates an opportunity for contrarian bettors to back favorites getting little public support.

The less support a favorite receives, the more profitable it has been to bet.

Favorites receiving less than 45% of bets, like the Raptors, have gone 145-111-7 (56.6%) ATS since 2005, and have been profitable in 12 of the past 14 seasons. A $100 bettor following this betting system would have returned a profit of $2,644.

So while heavy action is on the Warriors, history is against them, and apparently so are the professionals. Despite a majority of bets being on the two-time defending champions, the Raptors have moved from +1 to -1.

When the line moves in the opposite direction of the betting percentages, this is called reverse line movement and is an indication of sharp money.

The Warriors have the talent and playoff experience to beat any team, but recreational gamblers shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t cover in Game 1.