Absolutely anything can happen in sports. Any bettor who has ever taken an outcome for granted knows how true that is. In the first round of the NBA playoffs, though, there are some teams that are as close to unbeatable as is possible in sports. Not every top seed is sure to roll over a bottom seed – three number eight seeds have won their series – but there are many cases in which there has been nothing more than the smallest sliver of doubt that the team is going to come out on top. It’s tough to know for sure whether a top seed is going to cruise through their first round matchup, but by considering these seven factors you can do a pretty good job of separating the good teams from the great and take better advantage of the NBA basketball point spreads when you are betting:
Found ‘next gear’ down the stretch – When a very good NBA team gets ready for the playoffs you can almost feel their attitude change. They get tougher, they play harder, their mistakes are fewer, and they show much less mercy to their opponents. They have already been playing well all year, but they are clearly lifting themselves to an even higher level in preparation for the big playoff games that are to come. A lot of basketball teams will try to lift themselves up to a new level, but only the really good teams are able to do it effectively, and to maintain that momentum into the playoffs. If a team does find a new gear, and it seems sustainable and within their abilities, then that’s a very good sign that they are capable of rolling through the first round, making them a team you should certainly consider betting on.
Strong on the road – The ability of a team to really take care of business on the road is a very good indicator of a team that is ready for serious playoff success. A team that sweeps their playoff series still has to win two road games, so the better they are on the road, the better their chances of getting through the first round with ease. On the flip side, a team that has been very strong on their home court but not nearly as strong on the opponent’s hardwood may not be up to the challenge of lifting their game to the next level in the playoffs.
Health – This one is obvious, but still important. If a great NBA team is healthy then they have a much better chance of doing great things than if they are banged up or at less than full strength. You need to look at the injury reports, of course, but you also need to consider players that are walking wounded – playing, but at less than full strength.
Opponent is manageable – The ability for a team to roll through their first round has a lot to do with who they have to beat. Some lower seeds are basically lousy teams – perhaps even with a record below .500. Other lower seeds can be very tough, though, with a small gap in the standings between them and higher seeded teams. In NBA handicapping, you can’t forget to look at what an opponent has to offer in these situations.
Matchup is solid – As important as how good the opponent is is how well the team matches up with their first round opponent. A great pro basketball team may be able to overwhelm a team that they match up well against, but they could struggle against a team that they have real matchup struggles with – even if the opponent isn’t nearly of the same caliber.
Best player is confident and in form – In the playoffs the whole team needs to be firing, but the success of a team ultimately has a lot to do with how well the best player is going to perform. If that player is playing particularly well down the stretch and seems to be healthy, confident, and ready to roll then the team is well positioned to succeed. But sports bettors need to be wary if the player isn’t performing as well as he can, though, then perhaps the team won’t have as easy a run as they could.
Experience – It’s not very common for a NBA team – even a very talented one – to make a deep playoff run the first year they are all together if they are young players. Typically it takes a year or two of experience for a team to learn what is involved in playoff success, and what sacrifices they have to make. The more experience a team has in the playoffs together, the less likely they are to falter in a situation they are fully capable of excelling in.