Profitable Betting Strategies for Game 1 of the 2018-19 NBA Season

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles the ball during the first half of game six of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Profitable Betting Strategies for Game 1 of the 2018-19 NBA Season

The 2018-19 NBA season gets underway Tuesday night with a pair of marquee matchups.

In a potential Eastern Conference Finals preview, the Boston Celtics (-5) host the Philadelphia 76ers (8 p.m. ET on TNT) followed by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors (-11.5) renewing their rivalry with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook (10:30 p.m. ET on TNT).

If you’re going to bet on these games, and you probably are, here are a few profitable strategies for NBA season openers.


With no football and the excitement of a new season, Celtics-76ers and Warriors-Thunder will be the most bet games on the board Tuesday. Casual bettors like wagering on good teams, which are usually the favorites.

As such, oddsmakers tend to shade the lines toward the chalk.

Contrarian bettors can exploit this habit by betting underdogs. According to Bet Labs, teams getting points in the first game of the season have gone 104-91-2 (53.3%) against the spread (ATS) since 2005.

While profitable, betting every underdog in Game 1 isn’t an optimal strategy. Gamblers can have more success by taking home underdogs: 37-23 (61.7%) ATS.

Lines aren’t available yet, but the Sacramento Kings finished 28 games under .500 last season and will likely be home underdogs to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

1st Game, Opponent Already Played

Game experience is overrated, at least when teams first lace up their shoes. On Thursday, the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards play their season openers.

The Bulls travel to Philadelphia to play the 76ers and the Wizards host the Miami Heat. It will be the second game for the Sixers and Heat.

Teams playing their first game against an opponent that has already played that season have gone 37-26 (58.7%) ATS since 2005. Underdogs in this scenario are even better at 22-11-1 (66.7%) ATS.

Bad Teams aren’t Bad Bets

The Phoenix Suns were the worst team in the NBA last season winning a league-low 21 games. The Memphis Grizzlies (22-60), Dallas Mavericks (24-58) and Atlanta Hawks (24-58) weren’t much better.

Recreational bettors are likely to fade these teams after bad seasons, but in Game 1, that is mistake. Teams that won fewer than 25 games the previous season have gone 36-22-1 (62.1%) ATS since 2005.

Teams on the other end of the spectrum haven’t done as well as the public would expect. Those that won 60 or more games the year before are 9-12 ATS in openers.

The Houston Rockets (65-17) were the only team to win 60 or more games in the 2017-18 season.

Betting Against the Public

It has been profitable to fade lopsided betting action early in the season. The more casual bettors load up on a team in the first game of the season the more money contrarians make by betting against the public:

Teams getting fewer than 40% of spread bets have gone 59-48-1 (55%) ATS since 2005. At the time of publication (see live odds), fewer than 40% of tickets are on the Thunder (+11.5).

This article was originally posted on by John Ewing. Sports Insights is part of The Action Network.

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