Are Home Teams Undervalued in the Playoffs?

With another thrilling victory for the Celtics last night, the series has been knotted at two games a piece as the action moves back to Miami. The win not only shifts the momentum of the series, but continues a prevalent playoff trend – and no, it’s not just unpredictable officiating.

Boston’s victory means that the home team has won every game of the series and the same thing can be said in the Western Conference showdown between the Thunder and Spurs. But does this apparent home team bias translate to sports bettors?

Boston was a two-point underdog, meaning they covered the spread as well, but how have home teams done historically? The table below, with information taken from Pinnacle, shows the performance of home teams against the spread during the post-season.

Date Record Win Percentage Units Earned ROI
Since 2005-06 Postseason 295-261 53.1% 20.41 3.7%
2012 Postseason 40-31 56.3% 7.28 10.2%

As you can see, not only has it been lucrative to bet on home teams this season, but it has been historically profitable as well. In fact when we add our contrarian filter to the mix and look at home teams receiving less than 40% of public bets, this system becomes even more advantageous with a 96-68 record – good for 23.28 units earned and a 14.2% return on investment (ROI).

This trend can be attributed to a number of reasons. Perhaps oddsmakers simply underestimate the value of home court advantage — which is peculiar considering that home court advantage is actually overvalued during the regular season. Perhaps officials are influenced by the more animated crowd. Perhaps players from the home team are just better rested when they have the comfort of their own bed. My best guess? Fans simply don’t understand the significance of home court advantage and are willing to take what they consider to be a bad line.

The Thunder were 4-point favorites against the Spurs for Game 4 on Saturday, yet opened as 5-point road dogs for tonight’s game. Fans likely see this nine point swing and think there is value on Oklahoma City, as evidenced by the lop-sided public betting (San Antonio is currently receiving just 39% of spread wagers).

The same can be said about Game 5 in the Boston/Miami series. The Celtics were two-point home underdogs for Game 4, but have moved to eight-point dogs for Game 5 in Miami. With such a drastically different line, bettors have pounded gang green with 67% of the public liking Boston and the points.

Worth noting is that bettors may not be aware that Chris Bosh has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday’s game. For those looking for the latest status updates, make sure to visit our NBA injuries page or follow us on Twitter.

We have not chosen a side for either of these games, but make sure to check out our Best Bets after 5 PM eastern time to see if any plays have been triggered.

 

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