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NBA Playoffs: Quarter and Halftime Wagering

   by Al McMordie - 04/25/2004

While we're smack in the middle of the NBA playoffs, this is a good time for a note about some of the various proposition wagers you can find. With so many fewer games than during the regular season on the schedule, more sports books offer lines on individual quarters and halftime.

For instance, in Game Two of the Celtics vs. Pacers series, the Pacers were a ten-point favorite with a total of 180.5. But you could also wager on each quarter. The total was roughly 46 per quarter and the Pacers were a three-point favorite to win the first, second, third and fourth quarters. It's obvious what linemakers are looking at; they simply divide the game total by each quarter, although it doesn't always come out evenly. In that above example, if you multiply the total for each quarter of 46 times 4, you get 184 -- just a shade higher than the total for the game. And with Indiana a 10-point favorite for the game, the Pacers should have been a 2.5 point favorite for each quarter, but since bettors often look toward the favorite, oddsmakers rounded it out to three per quarter, offering a bit of an edge on the dog per quarter.

The point I want to make is that it is very difficult to get a gauge on what is going to happen in each quarter. Overall, you're better off trying to bet on the side and total for the whole game, as opposed to each quarter or even a half. The only value you can get for betting the first half might be on totals -- if you bet the first half to go under, for example, you're eliminating the overtime possibility stabbing you in the back if you bet the whole game to go under. Occasionally sports bettors will have the under on a game, then lose only because the game goes overtime.

Still, it's often better to try and handicap the whole game rather than to try and break it down by halves and quarters to find edges. A good example was that first game I mentioned, Game Two of the Celtics vs. Pacers series. Indiana won the game and covered, 103-90. Yet, Boston covered in each of the first three quarters, leading 22-17 after one and 46-41 at the half. Boston covered the third quarter as Indiana outscored the Celtics 24-23 as a 3-point third quarter favorite. It wasn't until a 38-21 fourth quarter that Indiana put the game away handily.

If you look at the final box score, you see that the Pacers won the battle of the boards by an impressive 49-38 and held Boston to just 40% shooting. So the final score was indicative of Indiana's dominance. Yet, it was a close game until the fourth quarter.

Quarter bets are difficult because teams go hot and cold during a game. Sometimes they are out of sorts on defense, and other times the shots simply fail to fall. Oftentimes a star player, like Kevin Garnett, Shaq or Jason Kidd, may get into foul trouble and have to sit down. You can't predict exactly when those things are going to happen, and successful sports wagering is about predicting what should happen in a contest, based on statistics, analysis and personal judgment. Twelve minutes is too short of a time period, in my opinion.

The value in basketball quarter wagering might be on the dog. In that previous example, the Celtics lost the game and failed to cover, yet went 3-1 against the spread in each quarter. Notice that Boston was getting a little more value per quarter (+3) than they were for the game (a +10 dog). Still, if you're looking at a favorite, it's better to analyze and wager on the full game than to try and win each quarter, as so many variables (fouls, injuries, cold shooting) can pop up.

For second half wagering, there can be good spots where the home team is tied or down at halftime and getting great value for the second half. In that Pacers/Celtics game, Indiana was down 46-41 at the half as a 10-point favorite, yet was a 9-point favorite for the second half. So, if you liked Indiana, you could get them as just a 5-point favorite for the game by taking them in the second half. And that was good value, which is what profitable sports betting is all about.

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