The NBA playoffs have arrived. Each year they bring two glorious months of brilliantly intense basketball action to bettors around the world. The NBA playoffs are great to bet on. They are, though, quite different from the regular season in a lot of ways, and quite challenging if you aren’t prepared for them. Casual sports bettors who are drawn to the NBA playoffs because of the bright lights and the glamour can easily make mistakes that can cost them a lot of money when they make their NBA picks. Here are five of the biggest mistakes:
Paying too much attention to last 10 games of the regular season – Casual bettors will look at how a pro basketball team performed down the stretch and apply significant meaning to that. A team that was red hot is one to bet in their eyes, and one that struggled is doomed. Those are lazy assumptions. There are countless factors that can have an impact on how a team approaches the final couple of weeks of the regular season. How secure are they in their playoff position? Are they healthy? Have they been playing well, or will coaches be working hard to get them ready for the postseason? How does the coach typically like to prepare for the playoffs? Is the schedule easy or particularly challenging? I could go on, but you get the point – it’s very difficult to know how the teams approached the final 10 games, so it’s very hard to know if they are going to carry that performance over into the playoffs. Don’t make this NBA playoff betting mistake and rely on those final games too much.
Giving star players too much credit – Lebron James might be the best player on the planet, and he clearly knows how to win in the playoffs, but he can’t win alone – he needs to have the right team around him to make things work. So do any other players – even Michael Jordan couldn’t win alone. Casual sports bettors will fall in love with the big names and forget that in the playoffs every team will be playing their hardest, so one star – no matter how popular or talented – isn’t enough to get a team over the top. It’s easy to be blinded by stars in the NBA, but you absolutely can’t afford to be when you are betting on the playoffs.
Not emphasizing matchups enough – The team that wins a playoff game or series isn’t necessarily the best one. It’s the one that is best able to control and contain their opponent. Far more important than how much talent a team has, then, is how that talent matches up with the opponent. Small fast guards are not nearly as effective if the opponent is tall, athletic, and strong defensively than if they are slow and not defensively sound. Casual bettors will look at the talent and not look at whether that talent will likely be able to shine against their opponent. This is especially significant in the playoffs because teams play each other so many times in a row, so any matchups issues become more significant with time as opponents get better at exploiting them. Analyzing matchups is part of the hard work that expert NBA handicappers excel at.
Overvaluing coaching – Coaching is obviously important in the NBA – if it weren’t then Phil Jackson wouldn’t have so many titles. It’s very easy for casual bettors to give coaches too much credit once the playoffs start, though. Every coach who is in the NBA playoffs has been good enough to get his team there, and he knows better than anyone what his team needs. Not all teams need the same thing from a coach, so what would be a great coach for one team could be a lousy one for another team. Assuming that one coach is going to beat another because he has had more success or he is a bigger name is very dangerous and not often accurate.
Looking for the sweep – The hardest thing for casual bettors to get their head around in the playoffs is that what happened in the previous game doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what will happen in this game and in the games to come. Teams can look unbeatable in three games and then fall apart. Two NBA teams can alternate between looking like clearly the best and being clearly outclassed. The location of games can matter, and so can how tired teams are. Lazy bettors assume that a team is going to win because they have won in the past. Successful bettors know that that’s not good enough – it can be a small factor in the handicapping process, but not the one that solely decides which side to bet on.