When two teams meet in the NBA Finals it isn’t the first time that they have faced each other all year. They are in different conferences, but NBA teams from those conferences have still played a pair of regular season games – one in each of their home arenas. Sports bettors can learn a lot by looking back at what happened in those games. They need to be careful though – it can be easy to give the outcomes of those games too much credit if you aren’t careful. Here are five factors to consider when looking at the regular season meetings of NBA Finals foes and using them in your basketball handicapping:
What happened? – When you look at the basketball games you want to start with the basic question – what happened in the games? When doing this you need to look beyond the surface and consider far more than the final score. The scoreboard will tell you who won and loss, but it may not tell you the whole story. You need to look closer at the box scores to see what really happened. For example, a game that was won by just a couple of points could have been very close throughout, or it could have been a total blowout that only tightened up once the winners gave their starters the rest of the night off. Until you look closer at the game, you could miss key elements like this that could make all the difference. You want to get a sense of things like the tempo of the game as much as possible, whether some players were able to perform above expectations or were held below their best, and so on. At this point you also want to consider the motivation of the teams in the games. Was one NBA team on a long road trip, or playing for the second night in a row? Had one team clinched their playoff spot and enjoying the freedom to rest? If one team was likely more motivated than the other in the game then the result means little since motivation will not be a factor in your wagering on the finals.
When did they play? – The more recent a result is, the more relevant it is. Any regular season game is going to be a long way removed from the finals since three rounds of playoff action and almost two months has passed since the last regular season NBA game. A lot can change and evolve in that time. If the teams met before Christmas both times then you can’t assume that what happened then will have any bearing at all on what happens now, so you can’t trust many insights from what happened in the game.
Was there a consistent result? – In the NHL teams don’t necessarily play twice, so the regular season results are harder to trust. In the NBA, the two games at least gives you something to compare. If the result was essentially the same in both games – in terms of style of play and how it turned out – then that is significant since the location of the games, the timing of the games and so on were different in both.
Has the team changed in the playoffs? – There are some professional basketball teams that make the finals by largely playing the same game in the same way that they did to get to the playoffs in the first place. Other teams are able to adjust and adapt significantly as they lift their game to a whole new level when the games matter most. Those are the teams that might not look like a serious contender when the playoffs start but have left no doubts by the last series. If a NBA team has gone through a transformation like that, they are obviously dangerous. More significantly, they are essentially a different team than the one we saw in the regular season, so it is very difficult to draw any conclusions from what we have already seen in order to use that information when betting.
Does the team have the same lineup? – If you are otherwise convinced that the regular season meetings were significant then you really need to check to see if the lineup that was on the court then is significantly similar to the one you will see now. Was a star player or a starter on the sidelines due to injury, or playing reduced minutes because he was banged up? Was a player starting then that is on the bench now? Has a player emerged as an important factor in the playoffs who was not yet a difference maker in the regular season? These factors can mean a lot when you’re taking a look at the basketball point spread and betting on the NBA Finals.