Do NBA Teams Clamp Down Defensively in Playoff Game 7’s?
The San Antonio Spurs were just seconds away from winning their fifth championship in franchise history before an improbable series of events helped the Miami Heat force overtime and eventually a decisive Game 7. With anticipation reaching a fever pitch for this winner-take-all showdown, oddsmakers have listed the Heat as 5.5-point favorites with a total of 188.
Perhaps not surprisingly — especially given the extremely competitive nature of this series — the public has been pounding the road underdog. According to our NBA Finals Betting Trends, the Spurs were receiving an overwhelming 72% of spread bets and 63% of moneyline wagers at the time of publication. This falls in line with past historical trends as the home team has received more than 50% of spread bets in just 5 of the 29 Game 7’s in our historical archive.
The public’s behavior during the postseason runs in direct contrast to the regular season where bettors tend to overwhelmingly favor betting on home teams and favorites. With that in mind, we looked at past NBA Playoff Game 7’s to determine if there is any value for tonight’s clash.
The table below uses betting percentages from our seven contributing sportsbooks and utilizes our consensus line.
|Date||Visitor||Home||Home Line||Home Spread %||Total||Score|
|June 20, 2013||San Antonio Spurs||Miami Heat||MIA -6||29%||188||?|
|June 4, 2013||Indiana Pacers||Miami Heat*||MIA -7||37%||180.5||99-76 MIA|
|May 4, 2013||Chicago Bulls*||Brooklyn Nets||BKN -7||46%||183||99-93 CHI|
|June 9, 2012||Boston Celtics||Miami Heat*||MIA -8||35%||178.5||101-88 MIA|
|May 26, 2012||Philadelphia 76ers||Boston Celtics*||BOS -5.5||64%||171||85-75 BOS|
|May 13, 2012||L.A. Clippers*||Memphis Grizzlies||MEM -7.5||34%||176.5||82-72 LAC|
|May 12, 2012||Denver Nuggets||LA Lakers*||LAL -5.5||47%||193||96-87 LAL|
|May 15, 2011||Memphis Grizzlies||Oklahoma City Thunder*||OKC -6||47%||196.5||99-72 OKC|
|June 17, 2010||Boston Celtics*||L.A. Lakers||LAL -6.5||45%||186.5||83-79 LAL|
|May 2, 2010||Milwaukee Bucks||Atlanta Hawks*||ATL -8.5||38%||185||95-74 ATL|
|May 17, 2009||Orlando Magic*||Boston Celtics||BOS -2.5||68%||187||101-82 ORL|
|May 17, 2009||Houston Rockets||L.A. Lakers*||LAL -13||55%||194||89-70 LAL|
|May 3, 2009||Atlanta Hawks*||Miami Heat||ATL -5.5||46%||181||91-78 ATL|
|May 2, 2009||Chicago Bulls||Boston Celtics*||BOS -3||36%||194.5||109-99 BOS|
|May 19, 2008||San Antonio Spurs*||New Orleans Hornets||NO -4.5||49%||183||91-82 SA|
|May 18, 2008||Cleveland Cavaliers*||Boston Celtics||BOS -8||40%||173||97-92 BOS|
|May 4, 2008||Atlanta Hawks||Boston Celtics*||BOS -14.5||43%||189.5||99-65 BOS|
|May 5, 2007||Utah Jazz*||Houston Rockets||HOU -5.5||47%||184||103-99 UTA|
|May 22, 2006||Dallas Mavericks*||San Antonio Spurs||SA -3||38%||191||119-111 DAL|
|May 22, 2006||L.A. Clippers||Phoenix Suns*||PHX -4||54%||215.5||127-107 PHX|
|May 21, 2006||Cleveland Cavaliers||Detroit Pistons*||DET -8.5||26%||177.5||79-61 DET|
|May 6, 2006||L.A. Lakers||Phoenix Suns*||PHX -5.5||39%||206.5||121-90 PHX|
|June 23, 2005||Detroit Pistons||San Antonio Spurs*||SA -4.5||39%||174||81-74 SA|
|June 6, 2005||Detroit Pistons*||Miami Heat||MIA -2||47%||176.5||88-82 DET|
|May 7, 2005||Indiana Pacers*||Boston Celtics||BOS -4||56%||182.5||97-70 IND|
|May 7, 2005||Houston Rockets||Dallas Mavericks*||DAL -4||48%||196||116-76 DAL|
|May 20, 2004||New Jersey Nets||Detroit Pistons*||DET -5||36%||165||90-69 DET|
|May 19, 2004||Sacramento Kings||Minnesota T'wolves*||MIN -5||48%||186.5||83-80 MIN|
|May 4, 2004||New Orleans Hornets||Miami Heat*||MIA -5||36%||168||85-77 MIA|
* Home teams were 17-11 ATS in Game 7’s
There were a few trends that immediately struck us after viewing this data, the first of which concerned the total. Broadcasters and analysts frequently talk about how Game 7’s are typically low scoring because both teams ramp up their defensive intensity, so we were very curious as to whether oddsmakers adjusted their lines accordingly.
While the total itself never changed dramatically from Game 6 to Game 7, we did notice that the under performed incredibly well in these games. In fact, in the 28 previous Game 7’s in our historical database, the under has gone 20-8. This is not the first time we have found value on the under during the NBA postseason, as detailed in an earlier blog post.
In that article, our research revealed that the under was 16-3 during the NBA Finals when there was reverse line movement (i.e. when more than 50% of the public is betting the over, yet the total moves against the public). For tonight’s game the total opened at 191 at Pinnacle with 66% of bettors taking the over. Despite that two-thirds majority, the line has dropped three full points to 188. This is an excellent example of reverse line movement and demonstrates further value on tonight’s under.
UPDATE: After the article was published, SportsInsights.com President Dan Fabrizio joined Chad Millman on ESPN.com’s Behind to Bets podcast to break down tonight’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Click here to listen.
Who do you like tonight? Will you be taking a side on the total? Does anybody like San Antonio (+220 on the ML) to win straight up? Make sure to leave your comments or questions in the section below.