Should You Zig Zag Bets in the NBA Finals? Not So Fast

Should You Zig Zag Bets in the NBA Finals? Not So Fast article feature image

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2), Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (5) during the 2019 NBA Finals.

  • Has it been profitable to utilize the zig-zag betting theory in the NBA Finals?
  • I use our Bet Labs tools below to see whether the trend holds up for spread, moneyline and over/under bets -- both in full games and first halves.

The Raptors cruised to a Game 1 victory in the NBA Finals, easily covering the 1.5-point spread. As of Friday afternoon, they’ve been bet from +1 at open to -2. Meanwhile, the total flew past the 212.5 mark in Game 1 and now sits at 215 for Game 2.

Has it been historically profitable to zig zag in the NBA Finals — that is, bet against what just happened in the previous game? That would mean bets on the Warriors to cover in Game 2 and the under to hit.

Let’s use our Bet Labs tools to dive deep into this dilemma.

Zig Zag on Spread Bets?

Since 2004, it has not been profitable to bet on the team coming off a loss:

Those teams have gone just 30-35-1 against the spread (ATS) in the following game, losing bettors $655. Just in Game 2s, teams coming off a loss have gone an even 7-7 ATS, losing money on the juice.

The only time it’s been profitable is in Game 4, as teams coming off at least one loss have historically gone 8-5 ATS.

But what about the first-half spread? Is that better?

No, those teams have gone just 48.5% against the first-half spread, losing bettors $442. Those teams have been profitable in Game 3s (10-4 ATS) and Game 7s (3-1) but have lost money in all other games.

Zig Zag on Moneyline Bets?

OK, what about moneylines?

Teams coming off at least one loss have gone 33-33 straight-up in the following game, although they’ve been slightly profitable due to plus odds. Road teams in this sample have gone just 16-22 straight-up but have posted a 11.9% Return on Investment (ROI).

Interestingly enough, most of the value is found in the early games — not the later ones:

And what about first-half moneyline bets?

Not profitable at all. Since 2011, for this sample, teams coming off a loss have gone 13-15-4 straight up in the first half. Favorites have been profitable, going 6-2-2, but dogs have gone 7-13-2, losing bettors $361. Like with the full-game trend, however, those teams have been largely profitable in Games 2-4 but not so in Games 5-7.

Zig Zag on Over/Under Bets?

And finally, if a game goes over the total, is it wise to bet the under in the following NBA Finals game?

Since 2004, games that have gone over the total in the previous affair have gone just 16-17 (48.5%) to the under in the next. Likewise, if the previous game has gone under, the over is just 15-21-3 in the following NBA Finals matchup.

And we’ll end with the first-half over/under:

It has been profitable to take the first-half under after a full-game over, but if you look at the timeline on this trend, it’s hard to believe it’s actually predictive:

First-half overs after a full-game under have gone just 18-19-2 historically, losing bettors $222.


Zig-zag betting does not seem to be a profitable strategy in the NBA Finals, regardless of whether you’re focusing on the spread, moneyline or over/under — in the first half or full games. The Warriors may cover in Game 2, and the under may hit, but don’t bet it solely because of the zig-zag theory.

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