It's still a small sample size for the entirety of the 2016 NBA playoffs, but if you have been backing the favorites and the Under on NBA odds you have been killing it! Here are more trends for you.
Will Oddsmakers Adjust To Better Defense?
Entering this week, favorites were 19-11 against the spread on NBA odds in the playoffs and the 'under' had hit in 21 of those 30 games. On Monday, just one of the three favorites covered (Charlotte) but two of the three games went 'under.' What gives?
On the spread, there's just a clear chasm between the good teams and the higher seeds in the playoffs, especially in the Western Conference. If you go by regular-season point differential, the first-round matchup between No. 2 San Antonio (plus-10.5) and No. 7 Memphis (minus-2.2) was one of the biggest mismatches in NBA playoff history. Memphis had a worse point differential than four non-playoff teams: Orlando (minus-1.6, finished 35-47), Chicago (minus-1.5, finished 42-40) and Washington (minus-0.5, finished 41-41) in the Eastern Conference and Utah (plus-1.8, finished 40-24) in the West.
It obviously didn't help the Grizzlies that they were totally injury-ravaged for that Spurs series, including without their two best players in guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol. So predictably, the Spurs covered three of the four in the sweep and the 'under' hit in three as San Antonio is the NBA's best defensive team.
The only other first-round sweep was No. 1 Cleveland over No. 8 Detroit in the East. The Pistons entered with just about zero postseason experience having not made it previously since 2009. The Cavs, meanwhile, were playing their best basketball down the stretch as LeBron James tightened his focus. The Cavaliers covered two of the four games and the under hit in two.
As of this writing, the only other team to have advanced is No. 3 Oklahoma City eliminating No. 6 Dallas in five games on Monday night. The Thunder were favored in every game and covered three of them. The 'over' did hit in the final three, however.
The lone series thus far where the favorite has covered every game has been in Heat-Hornets, with the home team winning all four. The two series that have seen the total go 'under' in every game has been Trail Blazers-Clippers and Raptors-Pacers as Toronto's stellar backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry has struggled against Indiana's tough defense. No total has even been set higher than 195 in that series and I'm not sure how much lower the books will go on NBA odds.
It's a known fact that NBA games are slower in the postseason as teams tighten up defensively and make them more of a half-court affair. So I believe the 'under' trends will continue. You also have some teams missing some of their best offensive players due to injury. Memphis was without Conley and Gasol. Dallas didn't have Chandler Parsons. Boston has lost Avery Bradley for a while. The Warriors won't have scoring champion and expected NBA MVP repeat winner Steph Curry to be off for at least the next two weeks. The Clippers have lost star guard Chris Paul for the rest of the playoffs. The Hornets have been without Nicolas Batum for a few games and likely will be a few more.
Another way coaches are slowing the games is by intentionally fouling poor free-throw shooters. Detroit's Andre Drummond attempted 34 free throws in the four games vs. Cleveland and made only 11. The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan is 13-for-40 as the Blazers continue to hack him. The Rockets' Dwight Howard is 12-for-34.
There rarely are any big upsets on NBA picks because the superstars get the calls. You heard Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy complain about that fact regarding LeBron James in the first round and it cost him a $25,000 fine. But Van Gundy is 100 percent right. Teams with the biggest stars advance.