Betting Trends in the NBA Playoffs

Apr 21, 2023

nba playoffs, nba playoffs odds, nba playoffs betting picks

There have been a few early surprises in the playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo played just 11 minutes before leaving Game 1 of the Bucks playoff series against Miami, and the Heat won the series opener against Milwaukee. While some other series, including Boston-Atlanta and Philly-Brooklyn, are proceeding as expected, the Lakers looked strong in defeating Memphis in Game 1. The Grizzlies gave it right back in Game 2.

If you plan on betting on the NBA playoffs this season, it might be beneficial to be aware of some intriguing trends. Let’s start with the favorites to win it all.

Favorite in the Futures Market

The NBA championship is currently expected to be won by the Boston Celtics. Boston currently is given +275 odds. The Bucks are next on the board at +335.

Over the previous 47 NBA seasons, 24 teams entered the postseason as favorites and won the NBA title. Golden State was the most recent NBA favorite to enter the postseason and go on to win the championship. In fact, the Warriors did it three times in 2015, 2017, and 2018.

Nine more favorites participated in the championship game out of those 47 NBA seasons. That means 33 of 47 favorites to win the NBA title at least played in the NBA Finals. It’s interesting to note that the team picked to win it all in each of the previous three seasons (2020 Clippers, 2021 Nets, 2022 Suns) has not made the NBA Finals.

Be Wary of Underdogs

The Sacramento Kings had their best season in a long time. The result was the team’s first appearance in the playoffs since the 2005–06 campaign. With a 48-34 record, the Kings secured the third seed. The odds for Sacramento to win the NBA championship are currently +2200.

Sacramento will become the 30th team seeded in the top-3 given odds of +2000 or higher since the NBA increased the playoff field to 16 teams in 1984. None of the previous 29 teams  reached the NBA Finals. Before bowing out of the playoffs, 10 of those 29 teams advanced to the conference finals. The 2020 Denver Nuggets were the most recent team to do this.

In 2018, Portland was a top-3 seed and was given +5800 odds to win the NBA championship. The Trail Blazers were eliminated in the first round.

Speaking of Underdogs

Bettors should avoid supporting the trendy underdog too. Underdogs that have at least 66 percent of the tickets since 2005 are only 29-43-1 ATS. These dogs are 6–12 ATS as of 2015.

There is a way you might be able to take advantage of NBA playoff underdogs. When there is a short home underdog, you should take a look at the total. Oddsmakers are expecting a close game and, usually, these games live up to the expectations.

In 247 such NBA playoff games, the Under is 145-101-1, which represents a winning percentage of 59 percent.

Speaking of Unders

In the playoffs, Unders appear to be a more common wager. The pace of play is typically slower than during the regular season as teams value every possession. Unders finished 58-35 last postseason. That’s a 62.4 winning percentage.

Unders have exceeded .500 in four of the last five playoff seasons. Smart bettors can go a little further and advance their Under betting. Since 2005, the Under is 548-525-20 (51.1%). The Under is 235-192-2 with a winning percentage of 55% in Games 5 through 7 of a playoff series. Games 6 and 7 are where the real value can be found.

Since 2005, the Under is 121-86 (58.5%). The Under has prevailed in those games by an average of 2.7 points.


Only three NBA teams have won the championship in the previous 40 years without having a top-10 defense (in terms of points allowed). The Golden State Warriors from 2018 were the most recent. The Lakers in 2001 and the Houston Rockets in 1995 were the other two. Of the top 10 defensive teams in the league this season,  seven are playing in the postseason.

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