A rhetorical question for casual bettors: Why does Vegas set lines in the first place? The answer is that they want to equalize action on both sides of a game. Books never want to be exposed. They want to collect their vig and move on. In a perfect world, favorites and underdogs would always be exactly .500 against the spread. But we don't live in a perfect world for sportsbooks. Right now, we live in a perfect world for the common bettor. Through 57 NBA playoff games, favorites are 36-21 against the spread, according to NBA Bet.
This is potentially catastrophic for books on several levels. The public tends to bet favorites more than underdogs, so they've likely lost a lot of money on this, but more importantly, the books have no clue how long this trend is going to last, and they therefore don't know how much of a cushion they need to build into lines. The real danger isn't in favorites continuing to win. It's in lines getting so inflated that sharps can start hammering underdogs and making a killing on lines that never should have been available.
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So why are favorites doing so well this postseason? I'll offer a few theories.
- Generally, home teams are favorites, and home crowds have been absolutely bonkers this postseason. This is entirely subjective, but I can't ever remember a postseason in which fans so greatly affected games. Not only is this helping home favorites, but it's a trend the books might have missed because of how little home-court advantage has mattered this year. In an average season, home teams tend to win around 62 percent of their games. This season, they won around 55 percent. But now that most buildings are close to packed and fans are absolutely rabid, home court means more than ever.
- This year's contenders skew more toward 3-point shooting than ever. Six of the eight teams that reached the second round ranked in the top eight in the NBA in 3-point percentage this season. It's easier to build up big leads shooting a lot of 3s than it is shooting a lot of 2s, so that might explain why winners are winning big.
- This has been one of the more injury-riddled postseasons in recent memory. Betting on Brooklyn against the spread feels quite a bit safer when you know Jaylen Brown isn't playing for Boston.
Where this trend will go, I cannot say. This isn't an excuse to start hammering favorites or to try to short the trend and bet underdogs. Your picks should still be made on a game-by-game basis. But understand that the books are trying to get you to bet on underdogs right now. If you're betting a favorite, you'd better be very confident in their ability to win big. And now, onto Friday's best bets.
Solomon Hill played eight minutes in Game 2 as a fake starter for the Hawks. Atlanta lost those minutes by 18 points. That's obviously unsustainable, but it goes to show what a difficult position De'Andre Hunter's season-ending injury puts Atlanta in. Starting Danilo Gallinari or Kevin Huerter would hurt their defense and weaken their bench offense. Cam Reddish isn't available either. Lou Williams seems to be the only other reserve Atlanta trusts. The Hawks are just short on wings right now, and it's going to cost them in this series. The pick: 76ers -1
The Nuggets have a net rating of minus-25.9 when Nikola Jokic has gone to the bench against the Suns. That just goes to show how big the talent deficit is between these two teams. The Nuggets are struggling against Phoenix's starters, but they're getting absolutely roasted whenever they have to use backups. That essentially means that Jokic has to not just win his minutes, but dominate them for Denver to have a chance. Have you seen anything in this series that suggests that the Nuggets in their current state can do that? No, you haven't. They're getting waxed. The pick: Suns +1.5