The Value of 1st Half Plays in the Bettor's Tool Box
Sunday, Apr 30, 2023
The Team had three winners with NBA 1st Half plays in the NBA playoffs in the last week, including our NBA Round One Playoff Game of the Year on Memphis covering the 1st Half point spread against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Some bettors and handicappers consider 1st Half plays to be simply regurgitations of full game plays. Tell that to bettors on the New York Knicks today in their opening game in their Round Two series with Miami or the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday in their Game 4 against the Heat. Both those two teams covered the 1st Half point spread after being installed as the favorite for the first 24 minutes of the game, yet went on to lose the game. Granted, if the lone reason for liking the 1st Half play is just repeating the reasons to like that team to cover the point spread for the entire game, then the logic is limited. Doubling and tripling down on the same basic argument is what got Adam Sandler in trouble in Uncut Gems. Yet specific arguments to support the 1st Half play while keeping that oddsmakers 1st Half number in mind are good reasons to consider these plays unique and valuable. When used carefully, taking the 1st Half options offered by the oddsmakers presents successful bettors and handicappers an additional weapon in their arsenal to extract profits. Let’s look closer at these three 1st Half winners in the NBA this week. The New York Knicks had an average halftime lead this season of 2.6 points going into the first game of their series with the Miami Heat. Of more significance for this 1st Half wager, the Knicks led the league with a 51-30-1 ats mark in the 1st Half this season. At home, they held their opponents to only 54.8 points in the 1st Half which allowed them to go into the locker room with an average lead of 5.1 points. They had a 26-14-1 ats record in the 1st Half when playing at home which was the second-best mark in the league. When the oddsmakers installed them as favorites in the 1st Half, New York had a 24-16 ats mark, the third-best record in the NBA. When playing teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better, they had a 31-12-1 ats record, the best ats record in the NBA. The Knicks last played on Wednesday when they finished their series against Cleveland with a 106-95 victory. They had covered the point spread in nine of their thirteen 1st Halves when playing again after taking three or more days off. They held the Cavaliers to only 46.1 points in the 1st Half in their five games against them in round one of the playoffs. Their average halftime lead against Cleveland was 3.2 points. They covered the 1st Half point spread in four of those games with the lone exception being Game 2 on the road in Cleveland.Miami pulled off three straight upsets to stun the Milwaukee Bucks last round. Yet most of those victories came from surprising 2nd Half efforts by the Heat. They trailed at halftime in three of their five games against the Bucks. Miami had the fourth-worst ats record in the 1st Half in the regular season. They had an even 56.5 points scored and allowed average in the 1st Half this season. When playing on the road, the Heat were getting outscored by 1.0 points in the 1st Half. In their five-game series with Milwaukee, they went into the locker room at halftime trailing by an average of 2.7 points with the Bucks averaging 63.1 points. In all seven of their postseason games, Miami was outscored by 3.3 points in the 1st Half. The Heat were 12-point underdogs in Game 5 before upsetting Milwaukee, 128-126 in overtime to win that series. Considering that Miami has covered the point spread only eight times in their last thirty-four games after covering the point spread in their previous game, a flat effort from the Heat seems likely, at least early in the game. The Knicks covered the point 2 to 3 points they were laying in the 1st Half by going into halftime with a 55-50 score. Yet Miami outscored them, 58-46, to pull the upset by a 108-101 score. In hindsight, bypassing the New York full game play and only taking the Knicks minus the points in the 1st Half was the preferred option. On Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies found themselves trailing by a 3-1 margin in this series after losing in overtime in Los Angeles to the Lakers on Monday, 117-111. The strategy for head coach Taylor Jenkins seems for his team to start fast and loose to feed off the energy of the crowd and crush the morale of this veteran Lakers team. Lebron James and Anthony Davis knew full well that the reward for pulling out Game 4 was that they have two games in hand even if they lose this game. Conserving energy may become a higher priority for Los Angeles if they fall behind early. The Grizzlies had been a fast-starting team all season as they went into halftime with an average lead of 3.8 points. When playing at home, Memphis averaged 62.8 points in the 1st half and goes into the locker room at halftime with an average lead of 7.9 points. Their 53-32-1 ats record in the 1st half was the best in the NBA. They had covered the point spread in the 1st half in all four games in this series, and they had covered the 1st Half point spread in seven of their last ten games against the Lakers. Los Angeles had exerted plenty of energy in outscoring the Grizzlies by six points in the overtime period in Game 4 Monday. Even without considering the physical toll of a playoff series, the Lakers had been a slow-starting team this season. Los Angeles had gone into the locker room at halftime with an average score of 58 to 58. On the road, the Lakers were being outscored by 1.9 points in the 1st half. In their five games in the postseason, they had been outscored by 2.8 points in the 1st half while only putting up 51.8 points. The strength of this Lakers team is their ability to step up their game in the clutch. Los Angeles had a 59-27 ats record in the fourth quarter this season, the best mark in the NBA. This reflects not only the veteran savvy of James and Davis but also the team’s attention to conserving their energy for winnable opportunities. We predicted that if the Lakers fall too far behind in the second half, they would likely take their foot off the gas pedal by the fourth quarter (and the oddsmakers will adjust their fourth quarter line with the game out of hand with the benches coming on). Yet if Los Angeles finds themselves with a good opportunity to end this series tonight (and gain the extra few days of rest), James and Davis would step up their game in the final twelve minutes. That was the situation we wanted to avoid, and that is why we did not endorse Memphis as a full game play. The Grizzlies successfully covered the 2 to 3 points they were favored by in the 1st Half by going into halftime with a 61-52 lead. Given the final score of 116-99, one could assume that simply making the full-game bet was the same choice. Yet it is not as if playing an ats side winner in the 1st Half is not an argument that they will not cover the point spread for the game. A bettor can take an underdog yet decline the money line bet for taking the points despite suspecting that an upset may be in the cards. It is about preferred choices. Later, the Lakers pulled within one point in the second half with the score 75-74 with under four minutes to. Memphis then went on a 26-2 run to put the game away. If not for that surge, perhaps the Lakers win the game. Los Angeles went on to blowout the Grizzlies on Wednesday, 125-85. On Monday, the Bucks found themselves at risk of falling behind, 3-1, in this series to that ever-dangerous Miami Heat team which had three pending 2nd half comebacks forthcoming in their next three playoff games. With the expectation that Giannis Antetokounmpo returning to the court after being injured, the oddsmakers and the market had responded by moving Milwaukee up from a road favorite in the five-point range to them now favored in the eight-point range. We considered those are a lot of points to offer a home underdog like Miami with so much playoff experience. Instead, we preferred the 1st half bet. After falling behind, 66-53, at halftime in Game 4, the Bucks would be determined to get off to a fast start. They had covered the point spread in eleven of their last twelve games after getting upset as the favorite in their previous game. They play well on the road against good teams and had covered the point spread in ten of their last fourteen games on the road against teams with a winning home record. They were going into halftime with an average lead of 2.1 points when playing on the road. Miami had outscored their opponents in the first half this season, yet they have been outscored by 2.0 points in the first half in their five postseason games this season. That trend continued in Game 4 as they went into halftime with a 57-50 lead. Yet they got outscored in the 2nd Half, 69-57, to lose the game by five points. Like with the Knicks in Game 1 of their series with the Heat, the profitable rout in bacon the Bucks was only the 1st Half ats side option. In basketball, 1st Half plays are distinct from full-game side plays. Oftentimes, they are the preferred betting option. They remain an important tool in Team Del Genio’s ways to beat the books.Good luck - TDG.