The Public Has Bet the Over in 87% of NBA Playoff Games. Are They Right?

The Celtics’ shocking 94-90 victory over the Heat last night not only completely shifted momentum, but also marked the fourth consecutive time the over has hit this series. That has dropped Boston’s postseason record for unders to 45-43 (51.1%, -1.01 units) during the Big Three Era.

This recent scoring binge has also been detrimental to betting the Heat’s unders, which dropped into the red for the first time with a 37-36 record (-.99 units) since 2006 and 15-19 (-4.74 units) since LeBron took his talents to South Beach.

However, this recent trend is contradicted by our historical data. In fact, betting unders during the post-season has been very profitable to sports bettors. The table below, using line data from Pinnacle, shows the sweet spots for betting playoff totals.

Filter Record Units
Won
ROI
All Unders 298-258
(53.6%)
24.79 4.5%
All Unders <49% 262-224 (53.9%) 25.13 5.2%
All Unders <25% 32-24
(57.1%)
7.13 12.7%

As you can see betting every under would be profitable, however, when we add our contrarian philosophy that value is increased even further. It also becomes quickly apparent that sports bettors love to take the over, as a lion’s share of wagers have taken the over since 2006. Of the 556 games in our database, 486 (87.4%) have had less than 50% on the under. This re-enforces what we all know – fans love to watch high scoring games and tend to bet with their hearts rather than their heads.

You can also see that, despite a small sample size, betting on games with lop-sided betting percentages remains fruitful for bettors. In fact, the under has hit in 32 of 56 games in which at least 75% of public bets took the over. This bears monitoring as both Conference Final games currently fit into this system.

For Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals this evening, a majority of bettors are expecting a high-scoring affair as 79% of spread wagers have taken over 202. Perhaps the high point totals from Games 4 (a 109-103 victory by Oklahoma City) and 5 (a similar 108-103 Thunder win) are fresh in the minds of bettors. However, historically it has been very lucrative betting the under on Spurs’ playoff games as they have gone 44-36 (55%) for 6.28 units earned since 2006.

There may be a similar situation brewing for Game 6 in Boston, however it is too early to tell. After seeing four straight games go over the total, 78% of early wagers have taken the over on 179.5.

There is always an inherent value on unders based on public perception and tendencies, but that value seems to be magnified during the post-season. There has already been a smart money move triggered on the under for tonight’s Spurs/Thunder game at BetOnline (15-11, +2.65 units), and our All-Pro members should check in prior to tip-off to see if any further betting systems have been generated.

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