NBA Betting: Playoff first round trends

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, April 12, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

The NBA Playoffs begin next week, and here are first round playoff trends for the last 10 years. Favorites have done well the first round especially at home, and ‘unders’ are better than ‘overs’.

The 2013 NBA Playoffs begin in about a week on Saturday, April 20th, and as we usually like to do at this time of year, we have gone back and analyzed each round of the playoffs individually over the last 10 years, and this week we are presenting our results for the first round.

All results discussed in this article are based on the closing odds from Pinnacle Sports for every NBA Playoff games since the 2003 Playoffs which followed the 2002-03 season. The first round should have the most mismatches, and indeed, blindly betting on favorites in the first round has been fairly profitable in those last 10 years going at 225-192-18, 54.0 percent against the spread.

As you might expect, these first round favorites have been even better bets at home, going an extremely solid 180-149-14, 54.7 percent ATS, and the first round home chalk was right around that 10-year average last season going 19-16-1, 54.3 percent ATS. The one-seeds and two seeds combined to go 7-3, 70.0 percent ATS as home favorites in the opening round last year, but more on that later.

Now one method for betting the NBA Playoffs that has gained popularity over the years is the Zigzag Theory, which says to bet on the team that lost the previous game since that team should play with a greater sense of desperation in the following game. Well, the Zigzag as a whole has lost its juice, probably because it has become too popular and books have adjusted, and thus this method is just 177-164-18, 51.9 percent the last 10 playoff seasons.

However, the NBA betting breakdown of the Zigzag over that time is actually interesting as it has gone a solid 104-89-10, 53.9 percent ATS if the team that lost its last game is now home, but only 73-75-8 ATS if the zigzagging team is now on the road.

As for the totals, they say that defense wins championships and the performance of the ‘under’ in the last 10 first rounds helps bear that out as it has gone a slightly profitable 450-395-24, 53.3 percent. Very interestingly though and contrary to the Zigzag Theory for point spreads, the ‘under’ is a lucrative 203-156-8, 56.5 percent in the first round if the teams went ‘under’ in the previous game.

Now let us take a look and the various trends for each individual seeding matchup in the first round since the 2003 Playoffs.

1-seed vs. 8-seed: Bookmakers are not dumb and they have shaded the lines of the one-seeds enough that they have gone just 52-47-4, 52.5 percent ATS in the first round overall, so the Miami Heat and either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs will not be obvious bets every game this season.

This round matchup has been dominated by the home teams, regardless of who is home, as these homers have gone 61-38-4, 61.6 percent ATS overall! The one seeds are a scintillating 33-19-3, 63.5 percent ATS at home including 4-1 last season, but the eights have done very well as hosts also going 28-19-1, 59.6 percent ATS.

This has been a good matchup for the home standing Zigzag as home teams off a loss are a combined 29-19-2, 60.4 percent ATS overall. As you might expect, the one-seeds have been brilliant in that role at 10-3-1, 76.9 percent ATS, but the eight-seeds are also profitable at 19-16-1, 54.3 percent ATS at home off a loss.

The favorites are a nice 56-42-4, 57.1 percent ATS in this round, and believe it or not, that includes the eight-seeds going 8-3, 72.7 percent as favorites! The one-seeds are 48-39-4, 55.2 percent ATS in the chalk role.

2-seed vs. 7-seed: Unlike the one-seeds, the two-seeds have performed very well blindly in the first round over the last 10 years at 58-39-8, 59.8 percent ATS overall. Last year’s two-seeds, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, went a combined 6-3, 66.7 percent ATS in the first round on their way to an eventual meeting in the NBA Finals.

The Zigzag theory has not worked well in general in this series, going only 38-42-8 ATS overall. It has however held up well for the two-seeds, as they are 15-7-4, 68.2 percent ATS off of a loss. The seven-seeds, on the other hand are an awful 23-35-4 ATS in that circumstance.

As you may have gathered by the overall record of the two-seeds in this round, it has not really mattered if they were favorites (49-34-5, 59.0 percent ATS) or if they are underdogs (9-5-3, 64.3 percent ATS).

3-seed vs. 6-seed: This series has been practically a coin flip with the three-seeds going 57-53-2 ATS overall. The two three-seeds in the playoffs this season are going in opposite directions coming in, as the Indiana Pacers out of the East are floundering after once looking like the biggest threat to Miami, while whoever gets the three-seed in the West between the Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies will be coming in on a roll.

Besides not much going on from an overall standpoint in this series, the teams have not had too much of a home court advantage either with the three-seeds going 32-28-1 ATS and the six seeds going 25-25-1 ATS on their respective home courts.

One thing that has worked well in this series, at least for the three-seeds, is the Zigzag Theory. Three-seeds are 21-16-1, 56.8 percent ATS off a loss overall in the opening round including an excellent 12-6-1, 66.7 percent ATS when the Zigzag comes at home.

Perhaps the best bet of all though in the opening round three-seed vs. six-seed series has been the ‘under’, as it is a lucrative 60-46-6, 56.6 percent over the past 10 seasons. Furthermore, the under is 31-18-1 for a fabulous 63.3 percent in this matchup if the teams went ‘under’ in their previous game.

4-seed vs. 5-seed: Now theoretically, these four-seed vs. five-seed matchups should be the most evenly matched of the playoffs, and that has indeed been the case since 2003 with the losers seeded five-seeds holding the razor thin 58-56 ATS advantage. The two four vs. five matchups last season were par for the course with the Clippers and Grizzlies going the full seven games in the West and the Celtics and Hawks going six games in the East.

This has been another series where the home court advantage has been no help from a betting standpoint as the five-seeds are 28-26 ATS at home while the four-seeds are 30-30 ATS in their own buildings.

Finally, one would think that the Zigzag Theory would work best in this four seed vs. five seed matchup, as logically this series features the two teams that are closest in talent and thus should be the hardest series to go on a winning streak. . Well, that has not been the case, as the Zigzag is just 50-45-2, 52.6 percent ATS overall, and the Home Zigzag is just 28-26-3 ATS.