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Handicapping Teams Off A Blowout Loss in the Playoffs

In the NBA playoffs – especially but certainly not exclusively in the first round – we often see one-sided games. These are games in which one side looks like they forgot to show up for the game and they lose by a wide margin. They are incredibly dull games, and they can be very frustrating if you bet on the team that is MIA. For sports handicappers they also present a real challenge – how is the losing team going to bounce back from this humiliation? It’s not always the worst team that doesn’t show up, so you can’t just assume that a team was blown out because they are lousy and that they are going to lose again. You can never fully know how a NBA team will respond until they hit the court again, but you can make an educated guess based on some sound reasoning. Here are four questions to help sports bettors figure it out:

Why did they lose? – This is really a whole bunch of questions packed into one simple package. If a professional basketball team loses by 15 or 20 points or more then there are some pretty clear reasons why it happened. You need to figure those out so that you can figure out one thing – are those issues just an isolated occurrence, or are they likely to happen again? Did they lose because they had a matchup problem that they couldn’t account for? Did a key player get injured early, or get in early foul trouble? Are they a team that relies on their shooting but couldn’t shot on the day? Was their energy uncharacteristically low? Did the opponent introduce a wrinkle to the offensive or defensive schemes that they couldn’t adjust to? Most of those problems are correctable and aren’t likely to be a big issue in the next game. Some, though – like a bad matchup problem under the hoop or in the backcourt – are still going to persist and could be a problem next time as well. If it seems like the cause of the problem is lasting then it could be very tough for them to get a win next time out. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to get blown out, though. If the issues were more passing and circumstantial, though, then the game could essentially just be a mulligan – one that they can pretend never happened. The betting public will often assume the worst after a blowout, so if you as a savvy NBA sports bettor can convince yourself that that’s not the case then you could have an opportunity for value and take advantage of the NBA odds.

What is their attitude like? – You can tell a lot about a basketball team and their mental state by the interviews they give after the game and the next day. If the team isn’t particularly bothered by what happened and the after effects and are just looking ahead to the next game then there probably aren’t any lasting issues to worry about – it’s just something that happens to every team from time to time. What you want to be on the lookout for, though, is teams that look like they could be pouting or feeling sorry for themselves instead of focusing on fixing the problems and moving on. Are they blaming the officials after the game, or pointing to factors other than their own bad play? Are the post-game interviews angry and borderline irrational? Are there stories emerging of off court bickering between players or players and coaches? If the team doesn’t seem to be dealing with the situation particularly well then there is a solid chance that they aren’t going to come back strong next time.

How have they responded in the past? – Over the course of the NBA season every team has played an impossibly bad game. Some have played far more than their share. The stakes in the regular season aren’t nearly as high as in the playoffs, and the next opponent is likely different than the one that blew them out, but you can still get some insight from how they responded to those situations. Did it take them a few games to get back in form after the blowout, or did they bounce back strong the next time out? Were the causes of those blowouts similar to what happened here, and if so were they able to adjust and compensate for the problems?

What can we expect from the most important players? – If a team gets blown out badly then there is a good chance that one of more of the key players on the team had a very bad day. It’s important to look closer at those players to see how they may respond in this situation. First, you need to look at how they played in the games leading up to the blowout. Are they mostly healthy and playing well, or was the blowout just the latest in a string of bad performances that could be the sign of injury or attitude issues, or perhaps a sign that the opponent is particularly effective at isolating them and minimizing their impact? If they are generally playing fine then by looking back at the game logs of their season you can spot games in which they were particularly ineffective to see if they were able to correct the problems right away, or if the bad play lingered. These factors can greatly influence how you bet on the rest of this particular NBA playoff series.

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