Winning and losing streaks happen to teams in all sports. It seems, though, that these streaks are more common and longer lasting in the NBA than in other major North American sports. Here’s a look at why that is and how to deal with it:
Streaks are real in the NBA – It is incredibly uncommon to see a double digit win streak in the NFL. It’s not as uncommon in the NHL, but it’s close. Even baseball doesn’t see a lot of them despite playing so many games each season. In terms of their occurrence compared to the number of games played the NBA is the king of long winning streaks. There are a few ways to explain why this is. The biggest is that there are fewer players who contribute in the NBA than in other sports. A winning streak requires that all the players are sharing confidence in each other and are operating on the same page. It’s much easier for 12 players and five starters that play the bulk of the time – to achieve than it is for other sports with more players who each play a smaller portion of the playing time.
Betting long winning streaks isn’t profitable – One of the cliches you will often hear about sports gambling is that you should never bet against a streak. The thing is, though, that cliches aren’t always true, and this is one of those cases. This is especially true when we talk about winning streaks. In fact, betting against the spread on teams that are on winning streaks of three games or over does not tend to be profitable over the long term, and the longer the streak the worse it gets. This makes sense if you think about it – the longer a streak gets the more the betting public will pay attention to it and be attracted to bet on the winning team, which will cause the oddsmakers to adjust the lines to accommodate the extra action and therefore make it harder for the team to cover spreads.
Winning streaks aren’t nearly as powerful if they aren’t covering spreads at same time – Once a pro basketball team strings together a couple wins the chances are very good that they will be favored – and likely by a decent margin. It’s quite possible, then, that a team can put together a winning streak while not covering the spread in all of their games. It is far less impressive when they do that – a clear sign that the streak is not a result of particular dominance. I’m particularly interested when I NBA see teams that have covered the spread for four games in a row. Teams that have covered three games in a row fail to cover the fourth a significant majority of the time. If a team covers that fourth game, then, it is a sign that they are playing very well and that they are worth special attention going forward.
The end of a winning streak can turn into a skid – When a team is winning they believe they can do anything. Confidence can be very fragile, though, so the end of a winning streak can quickly cause teams to question what went wrong. Once a team gets into their own heads they can cause real problems. Surprisingly often, then, a decent winning streak can be followed immediately by a losing streak. Once a winning streak ends, then, you want to be cautious about that basketball team – assuming that they will maintain their strong form is dangerous until you can be certain of their state of mind.
Don’t undervalue losing streaks – We are programmed as fans to disrespect teams that are mired in long losing streaks. That might make sense from a fan perspective, but from a betting perspective it might not. Because the betting public gets turned off by losing streaks, those NBA teams can often provide real value. The longer a winning streak extends, the more value there is likely to be in the lines because the public is going to be less and less likely to bet on the losing teams. While that can mean an extra point or two on the spreads – always a good thing – the real value in these situations is often in the moneyline. The public assumes that a team that has been losing is going to continue to lose. That means that the moneyline prices on the underdog just gets fatter and fatter as the streak continues. When a streak ends the sports bettors who back the hoop team on the moneyline will be rewarded handsomely.
Long losing streaks are great ATS – Losing streaks are particularly attractive to NBA bettors – or they should be, at least – when they get long. Since the 2004 season, for example, professional basketball teams that had lost six or more games in a row covered the spread at a rate of 55 percent. That’s a very nicely profitable winning rate – especially when you consider that there were more than 600 such games that you could bet on over that time period. Use that stat when considering your next ats bet involving a streaking NBA team.