NBA Playoffs Seeding Trends for Sports Bettors

Jason Lake

Friday, February 14, 2014 2:06 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 2:06 PM UTC

March Madness might be just around the corner, but what about April Anarchy? The NBA playoffs have their own bracketology, and a little study will help you pound those postseason basketball odds.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 14 inclusive:

62-53-1 ATS

17-13 Totals 

Imagine how crazy the NBA playoffs would be if they had a 68-team format. We’d be overloading the photocopiers (we still have those, right?) and filling out our brackets, trying to see if the No. 3 Houston Rockets had some kind of historical advantage over the No. 14 Iowa Energy. But we do have a 16-team format at our disposal, and if you dig down deep and peel back the players, you’ll see some basketball betting patters that are well worth keeping in mind this April. 

No. 1 vs. No. 8 

These series are billed as giant mismatches, especially in the East; last year, the No.1 Miami Heat blitzed the No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS. The West is a bit more of a minefield – ask the No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder, who survived the No. 8 Houston Rockets 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS. We’ll probably have a similar outcome this year given the disparity between the two conferences. 

The fact is, there isn’t nearly as much of a gap between the No. 1 and the No. 8 seed as the NBA betting public thinks, and it really shows up in the home/away splits. The home team in this round is 64-45-4 ATS over the past 11 seasons. That divides into 35-22-3 ATS for the No. 1 seed and 29-23-1 ATS for the No. 8 seed. This home trend also takes full advantage of the zigzag theory; home teams playing after a loss are 29-23-2 ATS, although they went 0-4 ATS last year. 

No. 2 vs. No. 7 

You might be old enough (probably not) to remember that Avis slogan: “When you’re only No. 2, you try harder.” There’s usually not that much difference between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams, but the NBA betting market fixates on the top seed, allowing the second seed to go 65-42-8 ATS over the past 11 seasons. 

This is also why you don’t see the Miami Heat overextending themselves for the No. 1 seed in the East. They didn’t need it two years ago when they won the title. Having said that, the San Antonio Spurs could have used that extra home game against the Heat last year. The No. 2 Spurs swept the No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 SU and ATS in the first round; in the East, it was the No. 2 New York Knicks going 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS versus the Boston Celtics.

No. 3 vs. No. 6 

As the divide narrows between the seeds, the games become more competitive, and you naturally see fewer opportunities to exploit the NBA betting lines – the point spreads, that is. You’ll see a considerable swing toward the UNDER if you look at the NBA totals. In this particular matchup, the UNDER is 65-53-6 over the past 11 seasons. 

Unfortunately, the 2013 NBA playoffs weren’t along for the ride. The No. 3 Indiana Pacers and No. 6 Atlanta Hawks took the OVER to a 4-2 record, and the series between the No. 3 Denver Nuggets and No. 6 Golden State Warriors was split down the middle at 3-3. But you were betting the Warriors (6-0 ATS) in every game anyway, right? 

No. 4 vs. No. 5 

Again, not much to choose from in this series. The 5-seed does have a slight advantage at 66-61 ATS over the past 11 seasons, thanks in large part to the No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers getting drubbed 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS by the No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies last year. The East had the more traditional donnybrook with the No. 4 Brooklyn Nets extending the No. 5 Chicago Bulls to seven games at 4-3 ATS before giving up the ghost. Go Brooklyn. Go Brooklyn.

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