With Christmas comes a tradition for fans of NBA betting: a full slate of NBA games that begin as soon as we’re done opening presents and end right before we fall asleep from a long holiday.
And especially since the NBA went to a five-game slate back in 2008, two key trends have emerged that bettors can use to their advantage.
It’s been a narrative for quite some time now, and it actually holds legs. For whatever reason, games go under on Christmas Day, so NBA over/under betting should be on your radar. In fact, from 2007 to 2017, the under hit 33 of 52 times (63.4 percent) on Christmas Day, and in each year the under hit more times than it didn’t.
You may have also heard that the early games produce fewer points. Here’s how each time slot has fared on hitting the under since 2007:
In that time frame just about everything on the under hit, but you can see how the pre-primetime games in the afternoon and early evening have connected on the over.
Perhaps it’s because this early in the season with the NFL and college football still going on teams haven’t played any Saturday or Sunday afternoon games. This is new territory for teams that have already played 30-35 night games.
Whatever the case may be, Christmas Day unders are a real thing.
Home underdogs can be a solid bet and usually hover around a 48-49 percent success rate over the course of a season. But they become better bets on Christmas Day.
Though the NBA slate usually features the game’s top teams – meaning home underdogs are a rare occurrence – bigger markets also get teams on Christmas Day, and that means some ugly New York and Los Angeles teams taking the floor.
But that hasn’t mattered in recent years. From 2007 to 2015 there were 11 home underdogs of the 43 Christmas games played. And while those home underdogs went just 4-7 straight up, they covered seven times.
It’s not the largest sample size but at a 63 percent success rate it’s worth noting. Home favorites during that span over the course of the year were 1,745-1,840, a 48.6 percent success rate. Teams always come to play on Christmas Day whether they’ve been competitive during the year or not. There’s a pride factor here.
There are some big spreads on Christmas Day. But keying in on the tightly contested matchups lends itself to a nice trend on Christmas Day for those who enjoy NBA spread betting.
From 2010 to 2017 there were 10 teams favored by 1 to 3 points, and the favorites went 9-1 against the spread and 9-1 straight up in that span. We mentioned that home underdogs tend to keep it close and that teams don’t want to be embarrassed on Christmas, but in the same light favorites are favorites for a reason, and when the talent margin is small it’s better to go with the favorite.
It makes sense that the previous year’s champion gets a spot on Christmas Day, but it hasn’t always resulted in wins. For example, from 2008 to 2015 the defending champion was just 3-5 straight up and an ugly 1-7 against the spread.
Again, that’s a small sample size –the Cavs in 2016 and the Warriors in 2017 bucked the trend -- but that eight-year stretch is telling. Defending champions, for one reason or another, haven’t exactly set the world on fire around the holiday season.
These teams tend to do their best work in May and June, and they’re almost always pitted against another top-tiered team on Christmas, not a large market losing team.
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