Mears: 3 Tips on Betting the Second Half of NBA Playoff Games

Mears: 3 Tips on Betting the Second Half of NBA Playoff Games article feature image
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Photo credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: CJ McCollum

  • Whether it's the zig-zag theory or betting on favorites losing at halftime, there are a bunch of betting myths in the NBA playoffs.
  • Below, I run through three tips on how to bet the second half of playoff games, dispelling some public narratives along the way.

The best NBA teams and coaches are those who can make adjustments over the course of a playoff series, either between games or even at halftime. Last week, I wrote about which coaches have performed the best in the betting market in the second half of games, but now I want to run through specific situations to back teams (and over/unders).

Here are three tips for betting the second half of playoff games.

Tip No. 1: Don’t Get Roped into Full-Game Favorites Losing at Halftime

First, let’s start with a common narrative that actually hasn’t produced betting value: full-game favorites losing at halftime. It’s an easy one to get sucked into. The Warriors are losing at home at halftime? Hammer the second-half spread, of course they’ll come back!

It seems oddsmakers fully adjust for this, however, as those favorites are below 50% historically…

Visiting teams have been slightly above .500 in this spot, while home favorites have produced a Return on Investment (ROI) of -5.6%. It’s not profitable at any point of a playoff series, although these teams are 18-10 for a 22.7% ROI specifically in the NBA Finals. It’s not profitable in any other round, so it could be a small sample size issue.


Tip No. 2: Target Home Teams Winning at Halftime


An actually profitable strategy is to target home teams that are winning at halftime.

Those teams have produced a 10.7% ROI on the moneyline since the 2005 season. In just the past five seasons, those teams have posted an even better 15.2% ROI.

Dogs in this spot are slightly more profitable, albeit in a smaller sample size:

  • Home dogs winning at halftime of playoff game: 37-61-2 (16.7% ROI)
  • Home favorites winning at halftime of playoff game: 298-196-21 (9.6% ROI)

One last note on that one: If those home teams winning at halftime were unpopular (in terms of spread bets) for the full game, they’ve done even better against the second-half moneyline in terms of ROI (18.3%):


Tip No. 3: If the First Half Goes Under, Hit the Under Again

This was one of my favorite systems this regular season, and it’s been highly profitable this postseason already, with unders going 9-2 so far.

This is another narrative-buster: Most people think that if a first half goes way under the first-half total — 10 points or more — that points are sure to come in the second half. Whether that’s just not true or whether oddsmakers adjust lines too high due to the narrative, it’s been profitable to hit the unders again.

The most recent example was in Game 2 of Blazers-Nuggets. The first half went under that total by a whopping 22.5 points. The second half was adjusted up to 112 after the first half producing just 85, and it went under again, with those teams combining for 102 points.