NBA Playoff Betting Tip: Take Advantage of Unpopular Favorites

Apr 20, 2019 08:00 PM EDT

uss Isabella-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell

  • Fewer than 50% of spread tickets are on the Indiana Pacers (-3) vs. the Boston Celtics in Friday's Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
  • Using Bet Labs, we explain why it has been profitable to bet unpopular favorites in the NBA Playoffs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been popular underdogs to start the postseason. OKC dominated its regular-season matchups with the Portland Trail Blazers, going 4-0 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS), which helps explain why the public backed Russell Westbrook and Co. in Game 1 and Game 2.

The Thunder received 64% of spread tickets as 3-point underdogs against the Blazers in the first game of their Western Conference series and despite losing and failing to cover in Game 1, OKC attracted 67% of bets in Game 2 as a 1-point underdog.

Just as Sunday’s contest did not go the public’s way, neither did Wednesday’s affair. Portland won and covered both games, blowing the Thunder out in the second matchup. The results weren’t that surprising from a historical viewpoint.

Popular underdogs have been a bad bet in the playoffs since 2005. Pooches getting more than 50% of bets have gone 198-233-14 (45.9%) ATS. Underdogs receiving 60% or more of spread tickets, like OKC, have gone 59-93-5 (38.8%) ATS.