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With division, conference and even cross-country rivalries that span decades, the drama offered by the NBA strikes a personal chord with fans of both teams and individual players. The cast of characters and storylines have never been stronger and both make for intriguing matchups almost nightly over an 82-season featuring 29 teams from the U.S. and 1 from Canada. The playoffs offer even more excitement as its grueling 7-game format does an excellent job removing much doubt that the two best teams face each other at the end of the season.

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Basketball Betting Lines & Odds

American sportsbooks use a point spread system to predict the winner of each contest and the number of points they will win by. Over/under bets are made by establishing a number of points that will be scored by both teams combined and whether or not the number will be higher (over) or lower (under).

For example, if Golden State is favoured over Cleveland by 5 points and it’s expected to be a high scoring game, Golden State’s odds would look like this: GS -5.0, 180. Cleveland’s odds would look like this: CLE +5.0, 180. To cover the spread, Golden State would need to win by more than five points. To beat the spread, Cleveland would need to win the game or lose by five points or less.

Moneylines are based on a negative or positive integer that represents how much money must be bet on the team in question in order to win NZ$100. In this case if Golden State were favoured with a moneyline of -140 it would mean a bettor would have to place a NZ$140 bet to win NZ$100. If Cleveland were the underdog with odds of +160 that would mean a bet of NZ$100 would win NZ$160.

Tips for Betting NBA games

A wide variety of factors can be considered when betting the NBA regular season. With so many contests to choose from (1,230 from October to April to be exact) anything can happen on any given night.

Resting & Tanking

Teams who might have already clinched a playoff berth will sometimes engage in the process of resting their best players. This dramatically shifts the odds in favour of their opponents, but it's worth noting that teams with excellent depth still are worth betting on in these situations.

It's become increasingly common to see teams at the bottom of the standings put less emphasis on winning games in order to gain higher drafting position to revitalize their franchise. This process (known as tanking) has helped some teams, and its worth knowing whether or not a team may be suspected of it when picking underdogs.

Revenge Games & Rivalries

Revenge games are as or more prominent in the NBA that they are in any other professional sports league. With smaller team sizes comes a heightened focus on individual players, and player movement has grown steadily more impactful over recent decades. With buzzworthy offseasons chaotic mid-season trade deadline players end up switching sides more often than most diehard fans would probably prefer.

This adds tremendous zestiness to matchups in which a star or role player takes on his former team and generally the player will put in extra effort to win. The nature of the negotiations can play a huge role in this as players who were slighted or appeared slighted will almost certainly feel a revenge factor grow when playing against his former team. These games are very fun and satisfying to bet on particularly if you're betting on the player's new team.

Rivalry games in the NBA have brought out the best in some of the best teams and generational players in league's history. Some rivalries are based on divisions, of which there are four in each conference, and the frequency in which teams play each other tends to build bad blood.

Some rivalries are temporary built between two teams that happen to be dominant or in constant competition for the top at the same time. These often end up in playoff series or even conference finals. Some rivalries, such as the infamous Lakers-Celtics showdown, transcend generations and sometimes even the sport itself. These games are always fun to bet on and often push teams to perform a peak levels with bragging rights and personal feelings on the line.

In-Game Betting

There is a noticeable dropoff in effort at times when teams get far ahead of their opposition. However, the NBA has seen many comebacks and big leads blown due to early leads taken. In general, NBA games are won in the third and fourth quarters as the first two periods do more to set the stage for the dramatics that take place after halftime. Coming back is difficult in any sport, but time and time again the best teams understand the the NBA is a league of scoring runs and the tables can turn at any moment do to the trademark fast-pace of the game.

It's very hard to protect leads in the NBA and teams that understand the ebb and flow of the game are often good bets. Teams that dictate the pace of the game are often (with exceptions) ones that win. A team will often prefer either a half-court or strong transition game and teams that force the opposition into playing that game generally do very well.

Making NBA Picks

As with any game of basketball, the winner of an NBA game is most often determined by matchups. These can be based on overall team strengths and weaknesses or at an individual man-to-man level. For example, a team that doesn't defend three-pointers well may be at a major disadvantage against a team that attempts a lot of threes and makes a high percentage of those threes. A team that defends the paint and rebounds well, however, may do well against a team that relies heavily on its centers and forwards for scoring.

A team that has a player who is normally a role player matched up against a weak defensive counterpart may see that player have a big night. For example, if San Antonio's shooting guard is a good scorer and Minnesota's shooting guard is a poor defender, that weakness could be exploited based on the skill and ability of San Antonio's shooting guard. Teams also can struggle against a particular coach's scheme. A team may be bad at defending the pick-and-roll, thus a coach that employs that tactic more often than not may be at an obvious advantage.

That's not to say that teams that may have poor matchups on a particular night can't win. Many times individual players can "go off" and carry their teams based on a number of factors. Teams that have players with this game-breaking ability are worth considering in upset picks or instances where a team appears to have a bad matchup. The NBA has become a more and more individual-centric league and team styles and strategies have evolved to reflect that in the modern form of the game. Teams that play a more sharing style based on ball movement and fundamentals are still successful on a nightly basis, but as mentioned can be overcome by strong individual performances at times.

NBA Playoff Betting

While anything can happen in the NBA Playoffs, historical trends seem to hold a strong precedence in determining outcomes. The most glaring example of this is the fact that no team that's lost the first three games of a series has ever come back to win that series. This feat has been accomplished in other sports leagues, but never in the NBA, which leads to many non-elimination games garnering "must-win" distinctions. Only three teams in NBA history have even come back to force Game 7 after losing the first three games, and that's only happened once (in 1951) in the NBA Finals.

There have been, however, 11 teams that have come back from 3-1 deficits in NBA history and four of those teams won the NBA Championship. The most recent accomplishment of this feat came in 2016 when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors, marking the first time a team had ever blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. While this event is fresh on many NBA fans' minds, it's important to remember that such comebacks are extremely rare and in many instances not worth betting on.

Seeding has also played an incredibly relevant role in determining and predicting eventual NBA champions, as No. 1 seeds have won 52 titles, which amounts to 74.3 percent of all championships won since 1947. Only 10 second seeds have ever won NBA titles, the last one being the 2012 Miami Heat. Only seven third seeds, one four seed and one six seed have accomplished the feat, while no five, seven or eight seeds have ever done so.

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