NBA Finals Betting Trends & Angles: Boston vs. Golden State

by Oskeim Sports

The NBA Finals are here and each year it presents bettors with numerous opportunities for betting success. With a potential seven games on tap, bettors can make or break an NBA betting season. When thinking about betting the NBA Finals, there are a number of things to consider. Here are a few.

Fade the Game 7 Winner

So, Boston had to go seven games with Miami to get to the NBA Finals. Teams that win a Game 7 do not do so well in Game 1 of their following series. The last 81 times this has happened in the NBA playoffs, the Game 7 winners have lost 49 times (61 percent). Those teams also only win their next series 41 percent of the time.

With Steve Kerr as their coach, Golden State is 21-2 SU in playoff Game 1s. The Warriors are also 9-2 ATS when playing as a single-digit home favorite in Game 1 of a playoff series. Golden State hasn’t played since May 26 and that rest advantage may work in their favor.

Game 1 Winners

Speaking of Game 1, there is an NBA playoff trend worth noting. In NBA playoff history, teams that win Game 1 of a series go on to win that series 73.3 percent of the time. The trend holds up in the NBA Finals too. The winner of Game 1 in the NBA Finals goes on to win the title 70.7 percent of the time.

Last year, the Phoenix Suns won Game 1 and 2 before losing four straight to Milwaukee. From 2017 to 2020, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the NBA championship.

NBA Finals Totals

It’s no secret that the Under is a trend during the NBA playoffs. The pace of games slows down tremendously as teams understand that they face elimination. Usually, teams average about 2.5 fewer possessions per game during the postseason. That means fewer opportunities to score which translates into fewer points.

Prior to this postseason, the previous seven NBA playoffs combined saw the Under cash nearly 55 percent of the time. Should the NBA Finals go to a final Game 7, the Under is even more profitable. In Game 7s, the Under hits over 61 percent of the time. There have only been two NBA Finals in the last decade that have gone a full seven games.

Series Prices

Since 1990, only four NBA Finals have been priced anywhere close to this year’s series – Warriors -160, Celtics +140. Ironically, the Game 1 winner – 1995 Magic and 2014 Spurs – went on to win just two of the four series.

Based on the results of Games 1 and 2, series prices will adjust. With a Boston loss in Game 1, their new series odds may move closer to +200. With another loss in Game 3, those odds could approach +300. Bettors considering backing a team that is down in a series should only do so because that team is playing far below expectations. The bottom line is that bettors can often find better series pricing after a few games have been played.

The Zig Zag

Zig Zag theory in betting is essentially just betting the opposite of what happened in the previous game. The thought is that teams will bounce back quicker in the playoffs knowing if they don’t they may be eliminated. Blindly following this strategy in the NBA Finals doesn’t really work, but there is one situation where there is a trend.

NBA playoff teams seeded in the top-3 – which both Boston and Golden State are – do very well against the spread when coming off a Game 1 loss. Since 2005, the Game 1 loser has come back to cover the spread in Game 2 64 percent of the time (30-17 ATS). 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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