Big NBA betting favorites covering spreads with defense, not offense

Updated: April 18, 2016

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In a NBA season in which the team that picked up 67 wins finished second, there’s going to be some distance between the league’s elite and the rest of the clubs in contention. That discrepancy in talent makes for massive spreads in the early workings of the NBA Playoffs.

Through the first weekend of postseason play, there have been four double-digit favorites, and three of those faves have covered the spread. Golden State covered 13 points versus Houston, Oklahoma City covered as 11.5-point chalk against Dallas, and San Antonio gave 17 points to Memphis and easily won by 32 points. The lone loser among double-digit favorites this past weekend was Cleveland, which won but failed to cover in a 106-101 victory over Detroit as an 11-point fave. 

Double-digit chalk – especially in the postseason – can be tough for some basketball bettors to swallow. Playoff games are supposed to be competitive, with the top teams in each conference doing battle in a best-of-seven series. However, looking back over the past 14 NBA postseasons (including 2015-16), and double-digit playoff favorites are 48-37-3 ATS – covering over 56 percent of the time – and 81-7 SU.

The hot 3-1 ATS start for big chalk this postseason is contrary to last year, when double-digit NBA favorites finished just 3-7 ATS (9-1 SU). Golden State, the eventual NBA champion, alone was just 2-5 ATS as double-digit chalk in the 2014-15 playoffs. 

Monday’s NBA Playoffs schedule features two more hefty favorites, with the Warriors and Thunder both giving 13.5 points to their respective opponents. And Tuesday has San Antonio laying 18.5 points in Game 2 versus Memphis. Cleveland is sitting at -10 hosting Detroit Wednesday.

Double-digit NBA playoff spreads have also produced interesting trends for totals bettors as well. Going back to 2002-03, postseason contests with spreads of 10 or more points have finished 39-45-4 Over/Under – a 53.5 lean toward the Under. And over the last three playoffs (including this year), those games with double-digit chalk have gone 3-11-1 Over/Under – 78.5 percent Under.
This trend goes against the conventional school of betting thought, that big faves and Overs go hand-in-hand due to double-digit faves needing to score a lot of points to cover that mountain of chalk. However, it seems that stout defense is just as productive when it comes to covering those lofty expectations.

So far, the four NBA playoff games with qualifying spreads are 1-3 Over/Under, with Cleveland-Detroit Game 1 once again serving as the exception. The three games that did go Under saw betting underdogs score an average of just 74 points on 34.8 percent shooting with a combined 54 turnovers.

The total for Monday’s Warriors-Rockets game is at 218 while the OKC-Dallas total is listed at 201.5.

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