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Should Bettors Fade the Public in the NBA Finals?

Should Bettors Fade the Public in the NBA Finals? article feature image

Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pascal Siakam

  • Has it historically been profitable to fade the public in the NBA Finals on spreads, totals and moneylines?
  • Below I dive into the Bet Labs tools to find out and explore what that means for Warriors vs. Raptors Game 1 and beyond.

In general, it is wise to bet against the public, as we’ve detailed in numerous pieces, including here. But in specific spots the public has done well historically; is that the case for NBA Finals matchups?

Using the Bet Labs tools, we can look at how the public has done on spreads, totals and moneylines historically.

Should Bettors Fade the Public on NBA Finals Spreads?

The answer is yes: Since 2004, teams getting 49% or less of the spread tickets have gone 45-31-1 (59.2%) against the spread (ATS), good for a 15.4% return on investment (ROI). Over the last four postseasons, those teams have gone 14-7 ATS for a 29.8% ROI.

The most profitable time to do it historically is in Game 5:

  • Game 1: 7-7 ATS (-$48)
  • Game 2: 8-5 ATS (+$282)
  • Game 3: 7-6 ATS (+$64)
  • Game 4: 7-6 ATS (+$63)
  • Game 5: 9-2 ATS (+$653)
  • Game 6: 4-4 ATS (-$11)
  • Game 7: 3-1 ATS (+$180)

Most of the value in that sample is found with favorites, which have gone 28-16 ATS for a 24.3% ROI historically. We have money percentages only since 2015, but nonpublic teams getting more money than tickets have gone 6-3 ATS during that span.

Looking ahead to Game 1, the Raptors are currently unpopular home favorites, getting just 20% of the bets and 9% of the money. The public is all over the defending champions here.

Should Bettors Fade the Public on NBA Finals Totals?

NBA totals have not been nearly as profitable of late for bettors looking to fade the public. Overall it’s made them money since 2004 …

But books have properly adjusted in recent years: Since 2011, bettors fading the public would have gone just 18-20-1. Over/unders with sharp money — more money wagered than tickets — have gone 5-4-1 since 2015, but that’s obviously an incredibly small sample size.

It also hasn’t been profitable to bet on games zig-zagging: Since 2004, when the total goes over in the previous game, the unpopular under is just 14-15 in the next.

In general, the public is almost always on the over in NBA Finals games: Since 2004, the over has gotten the majority of the bets in 70 games vs. just seven for the under.

Should Bettors Fade the Public on NBA Finals Moneylines?

Teams getting less than 50% of moneyline bets in the NBA Finals have been slightly profitable historically, going 44-33 (57.1%) for a 1.7% ROI, but the overall money won has been very little. It’s been a bit better to take unpopular favorites, but $377 won on $100 per bet still isn’t inspiring.

There could be an edge, though, in taking those teams specifically in Game 1:

  • Game 1: 10-1 (+$311)
  • Game 2: 5-3 (-$115)
  • Game 3: 6-2 (+$214)
  • Game 4: 3-3 (-$102)
  • Game 5: 7-3 (+$93)
  • Game 6: 3-2 (-$18)
  • Game 7: 2-1 (-$6)

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Raptors as home favorites are getting just 20% of the moneyline bets and 12% of the money wagered.


The sample sizes are small, but it seems historically the best spot to fade the public has been betting on spreads, and specifically on undervalued favorites. It’s also been wise to bet on unpopular favorites on the moneyline historically, especially in Game 1s. There hasn’t been an edge in the past fading the public on over/unders.

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