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NBA Totals: Know Your Reference Points

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/28/2006

At this point in the NBA season, there are an abundance of reference points to go to when assessing potential point spread covers. There are overall stats, home/road play, coaching strategies and adjustments, and injuries. Another outstanding reference point, which too many novice sports bettors ignore, is previous meetings.

We've just passed the halfway mark of the NBA season. Each team has played every team in the league at least once, and some have multiple meetings. Don't ignore these previous meetings. The Internet has made it easy to quickly check on past box scores of every game a team has played. Use them!

Granted, what happened in a previous game doesn't mirror everything that is going to happen in the upcoming meeting. However, there is a plethora of information available, you just need to work on what to look for and how to use it. Some examples: Sometimes a team was without a key player when they last met. Make a note of it. Another would be a rebounding edge. Did one team dominate the boards the previous three meetings? If so, did that correlate in three point spread covers? Shooting percentages are another great tidbit. If a team shoots 49%, 47% and 52% against the same team the last three games, that is a valuable clue that either the opponent plays terrible defense or they can't properly guard that particular team, which would suggest a match-up deficiency. This likely means they will shoot well in the upcoming meeting. That is something to consider when assessing the side or the total the next game.

This was a tactic I used Thursday when releasing a play on the Mavericks/Grizzlies game. I gave out the over on the game. At first glance, both those teams are outstanding defensively, so the betting line was going to be geared toward looking at a low scoring game. Memphis plays a slow-down style, while Dallas has made huge leaps and bounds defensively this season under coach Avery Johnson. Which makes me wonder why Dallas stayed with Don Nelson so long, as the Mavs always underachieved defensively under his watch.

However, in my analysis on the game I looked back on previous meetings. I mentioned: 'The posted total on this game is just way too low. The only other game played in Dallas this year with a total lower than this number was back on November 22nd when the Mavs hosted the Rockets. That game flew over the posted total by 17 points! The last five games here between these two have resulted in total points scored of 204, 199, 200, 213 and 202. All much higher than the total posted Thursday.'

I've made numbers on basketball games for many years and I could tell two things. One, the number was too low. Two, the public perception on the game would look at it as a low scoring battle, so oddsmakers were forced to make the number lower than it should have been. But I didn't stop there. I looked back at the previous meetings between the two teams. They have already played in Dallas earlier in the season, and the total was 185, yet the final score was Memphis 112, Dallas 97!

A year ago Memphis was also a strong defensive team under Mike Fratello, yet in the two meetings in Dallas last season, the Mavs torched the Grizzlies for 110 and 112 points! Finding winning NBA totals takes careful analysis, and a terrific frame of reference that everybody can utilize is to look back at the last few meetings between the same teams. There's a bevy of information available, you just need to dig up the hidden gold and turn into cash at the wagering window!

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