Are NBA Teams Undervalued in Early Season Back-to-Back Games?
11/20/15 Update: This system has gone 18-10 ATS (+7.35 units won) during the 2015 season and is now 193-135 ATS (+50.81 units won) overall.
Article was originally published on October 28, 2015:
Earlier this morning, I was scanning through tonight’s slate of NBA games when one particular line caught my eye — the New Orleans Pelicans had opened as 2-point underdogs against the Portland Trail Blazers.
This seemed bizarre. Although Portland had home court advantage, the evolution and popularity of the 3-point shot has meant fewer drives to the basket and therefore less opportunity for referees to be influenced by the home crowd. In fact, the average winning margin for home teams has dropped in each of the past three seasons. The result is that home court advantage is no longer worth the standard three-points that many people believe.
In addition, the Blazers had lost four of their starters over the offseason and now boasted the league’s second lowest win total with an over/under of 25.5. On the other side, the Pelicans were projected to win 47.5 games and were continuing to build around a young core led by All-NBA First Team selection Anthony Davis. So what were we missing?
The reason for this line was simple: New Orleans was playing on the second night of a back-to-back and oddsmakers were shading their lines accordingly. But why would sportsbooks do this? How could any NBA team be tired just one game into the season?
In order to test this theory, we utilized our Bet Labs data analysis software. We found that teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back have gone just 3,058-3,111 ATS, but that record improves to 2,126-2,061 ATS when we narrow our focus to road teams on back-to-backs.
Taking that one step farther, we found that teams playing back-to-back games in the midst of a road trip have performed exceptionally well with a 1,171-1,094 ATS record.
We already knew that home court advantage has been vastly overvalued by bettors, but this research revealed that this edge is magnified when we focus on teams with limited rest. Now that we had our data subsect, we wanted to test whether road teams playing on back-to-back nights were offering value in early season games.
In fact, we found a direct correlation between early season games and a higher return on investment (ROI) for our system. The table below displays the performance of this system based on the game numbers.
|Game Number||Record (ATS)||Winning Percentage||Units Won||ROI|
As you can see, the winning percentage and return on investment both continually increase as we examine games progressively earlier in the season. This would seem to validate our hypothesis that NBA teams aren’t fatigued by back-to-back games at the start of the season, and that they don’t wear down until late in the year. In fact, we found that the biggest drop off comes after the 55th game of the season which correlates with the All-Star break.
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David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@sportsinsights.com.