NBA Playoffs First Round Series Betting Trends and Notes: Higher-Seeded Underdogs

NBA Playoffs First Round Series Betting Trends and Notes: Higher-Seeded Underdogs article feature image
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John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Doc Rivers, head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks

It's the start of the NBA Playoffs, and this might be the most first-round parity we have encountered in a long time.

Three series where the lower seed is the favorite: No. 6 Suns vs No. 3 Timberwolves, No. 5 Mavericks vs No. 4 Clippers, No. 6 Pacers vs. No. 3 Bucks.

To help you navigate the first round, Action Network's Director of Research, Evan Abrams, identified some of the most notable betting trends.

Avoid the moneyline?

Over the last four playoffs, including this year, there have been a total of 278 playoff games. Underdogs have won 94 of them straight up, favorites have won 183 of them straight up (and one PK). Of the 183 games that favorites have won straight up, they have covered 154 of them.

This means the team that wins the playoff game is 249-29 ATS in that span.

Home Underdogs in the First Round?

In the last 20 years of the playoffs, there have been only two home teams to close as underdogs in Game 1 of a first-round series ('22 DAL vs. UTA, '08 HOU vs. UTAH).

This year, we currently have two alone, with the Pacers/Bucks and Mavericks/Clippers.

Historically, in NBA playoff games where we have a short home underdog, the game tends to go under the total.

Dr. Underdog?

In the Bet Labs database (last 20 years), Doc Rivers is the most profitable playoff coach on the moneyline as an underdog, going 31-50, but a $100 bettor would be up $3,486. Doc's 13 outright wins as an underdog in the first round is the 2nd-most behind his opponent in the first round, Rick Carlisle (18).

Mavericks Money

The Clippers opened as the favorite in the series over the Mavs but that quickly flipped.

"We opened the Clippers as -135 favorites, and it’s been nothing but Mavericks money ever since then," BetMGM trader Hal Egeland said, with Dallas now -135 to win the series. "The public agrees with my personal opinion of the Mavericks. But even I was surprised at the amount of action we took on the Mavs."

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Nick Sterling
May 21, 2024 UTC