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A look at recent NBA Christmas betting

By Steve Makinen  () 

The NBA’s 2019 Christmas basketball slogan is “Christmasketball.” While the tag line can be described as festive — I have other, less pleasant words for it — the simple truth is that the league and its product have taken over the holiday sports viewing and betting options. Other than perhaps the Finals, Christmas may be the NBA’s biggest day each season. The annual lineup has grown to five games, and it has been that way since the 2008 season. Before that, the Christmas schedule had one to three games. Of course, with every big sports betting event, I like to dig through the historical data to uncover edges bettors might not realize. I’ve done just that for the Christmas Day NBA bettors below. If you’re reading this, you’re probably going to be betting some of Wednesday’s games. Why not do it in a more educated fashion? Plus, you’ll be able to boast some incredible NBA betting knowledge at your family party. The data I used to build this piece included every Christmas game played since the 1999 season, a span of 20 years and a sample size of 75 games. 

Overall Christmas records 

These are the records of the 27 NBA teams that have played on Christmas over the last 20 seasons. Which teams are missing? Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis. Maybe the recent additions of exciting players like Trae Young for the Hawks and Ja Morant for the Grizzlies can change that. About the Hornets … not so sure.

BOSTON: 4-5 SU & 5-4 ATS, 5-4 Ov-Un

BROOKLYN: 1-2 SU & ATS, 1-2 Ov-Un

CHICAGO: 4-3 SU & 3-4 ATS, 3-4 Ov-Un

CLEVELAND: 4-4 SU & ATS, 2-6 Ov-Un

DALLAS: 2-1 SU & ATS, 3-0 Ov-Un

DENVER: 0-3 SU & ATS, 0-3 Ov-Un

DETROIT: 2-1 SU & ATS, 2-1 Ov-Un

GOLDEN STATE: 4-4 SU & 2-6 ATS, 3-5 Ov-Un

HOUSTON: 5-1 SU & ATS, 3-3 Ov-Un

INDIANA: 2-1 SU & ATS, 1-2 Ov-Un

LA CLIPPERS: 4-3 SU & ATS, 1-6 Ov-Un

LA LAKERS: 7-13 SU & 11-8 ATS, 9-11 Ov-Un

MIAMI: 10-1 SU & 7-4 ATS, 2-9 Ov-Un

MILWAUKEE: 1-0 SU & ATS, 0-1 Ov-Un

MINNESOTA: 1-1 SU & ATS, 1-1 Ov-Un

NEW ORLEANS: 0-2 SU & ATS, 0-2 Ov-Un

NEW YORK: 3-8 SU & 2-9 ATS, 5-6 Ov-Un

OKLAHOMA CITY: 6-4 SU & ATS, 3-7 Ov-Un

ORLANDO: 4-3 SU & ATS, 2-5 Ov-Un

PHILADELPHIA: 1-2 SU & ATS, 1-2 Ov-Un

PHOENIX: 1-2 SU & ATS, 1-2 Ov-Un

PORTLAND: 3-3 SU & ATS, 3-3 Ov-Un

SACRAMENTO: 1-1 SU & ATS, 2-0 Ov-Un

SAN ANTONIO: 2-5 SU & 2-4 ATS, 4-3 Ov-Un

TORONTO: 0-1 SU & ATS, 1-0 Ov-Un

UTAH: 1-0 SU & ATS, 0-1 Ov-Un

WASHINGTON: 2-1 SU & 3-0 ATS, 2-1 Ov-Un

Of the teams playing this season, Houston has enjoyed the most success at 5-1 SU and ATS, while Denver owns the worst winless record at 0-3 SU and ATS. Milwaukee and Toronto are relative newcomers, each playing just their second time. The team with the best Christmas record and off to a good start in 2019, Miami, is not scheduled.

Overall trends and systems

Here are some of the basic betting trends and systems that have developed over the last 20 years of Christmas NBA betting:

— Home teams hold the edge with a record of 44-31 SU and 42-32-1 ATS (56.8%).

— Favorites are 49-26 SU and 39-35-1 ATS (52.7%).

— Outright winners have gone 65-9-1 ATS in those games.

— Regarding  totals, Under has been the winning wager at a 45-30 rate, good for 60%.

With the overall success of home teams and Unders, maybe you have enough to go on for Wednesday already? If not, read on.

Trends based on line/total range

— Small home favorites have been the best home wagering option. Those laying 4.5 or fewer points are on a 17-6 SU and 15-8 ATS (65.2%) run.

— These small home favorites have also been a prohibitive Under wager on totals 18-5, good for 78.3%.

Following the line moves

— Bettors have struggled on Christmas in moving lines, assuming they are backing teams the lines have moved toward. Bettors are just 27-36 ATS over the last 20 seasons, just 42.9%. 

— Alternatively, bettors have been significantly sharper on moving totals, going 37-31 in that span, good for 54.4%.

Scoring figures

— Only two of 21 home teams that have scored 105 points or more have lost, going 17-4 ATS. Those that don’t reach 100 points are just 15-23 SU and 14-23-1 ATS.

— For road teams, the magic scoring total is also 105 points, as visitors that reach that total have gone 16-6 SU and ATS. Those that fail to reach 95 points were 6-25 SU and 7-23-1 ATS.

East vs. West home-court advantage

The biggest home-court advantage in terms of type of game belongs to hosts in non-conference games (15-9 SU and 16-8 ATS). Of those 16 point-spread winners, 14 also went Under the total. Unfortunately, this season and last are the first two since the league expanded to five games with no East-vs.-West matchups.

Records by team strength

 

— Strangely, the home teams with the best records heading into their Christmas sgame have had the worst records, as those winning 70% or more of their games are just 12-9 SU and 9-11-1 ATS (45%).

— Mediocre home teams winning between 43-50% of their games are a perfect 9-0 ATS since ’99 (8-1 SU). They’ve also gone Under the total at an 8-1 rate.

— The highest-scoring home teams, those averaging 105.5 PPG or more, are on an 11-5 ATS run (68.8%).

— The worst defensive home teams, those allowing 104.5 PPG or more, have also fared well, going 11-4 ATS (73.3%).

— Home teams outscored by 3.5 PPG have really stepped up on Christmas, 8-3 ATS in the last 11.

— The best road teams (winning 75% or more of their games) have struggled, 2-10 ATS (14.3%).

— Backing high-scoring road teams has been a disaster for bettors, as those scoring 107 PPG are just 4-11 ATS (26.7%) in their last 15. Under the total is also 11-4 in those games.

— When road teams that are outscoring their opponents by 6 PPG have played on Christmas, they are on an 18-3 Under the total run.

2019 games

Boston at Toronto (noon ET)

Unfortunately, the first of five games Wednesday will be more about who is not playing than who is, as Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol as well as Boston’s Gordon Hayward may all miss the game. As a result, Boston is expected to be favored. Keep in mind the trend regarding high-scoring road teams, as Boston scores about 111 PPG. Recent history has shown that home-court advantage is very important in Atlantic Division games, especially this series, in which hosts have won 10 straight games ATS.

Milwaukee at Philadelphia (2:30 p.m. ET)

Most prognosticators think this will be the Eastern Conference finals matchup. Milwaukee sports a league-best 26-4 record and is scoring 120.6 PPG. Philadelphia has underperformed a bit at 21-10 but just lost its first home game of the season to Miami. The Bucks will be slight road favorites and with a .871 winning percentage and will be trying to break that 2-10 ATS trend record shown above.

Houston at Golden State (5 p.m. ET)

This game looked way better on paper before the season but still grabs the prime spot on the ABC schedule. We have no Stephen Curry, but the James Harden-Russell Westbrook duo is worth watching. This will be another game with a high-scoring road favorite, and Golden State is a home team being outscored by over 3.5 PPG. However, Houston owns a 5-1 SU and ATS record on Christmas.

LA Clippers at LA Lakers (8 p.m. ET)

This is clearly the premier game of the day, assuming all the stars play and there is no load management to deal with. It sounds as if that will be the case. This is an interesting game to handicap in that the L.A.-L.A. battles are essentially neutral. The Lakers, who have easily been the league’s most frequently viewed team on Christmas, own the West’s best record but endured a three-game losing streak into last weekend. 

New Orleans at Denver (10:30 p.m. ET)

This is another game that looked better on the preseason schedule when top draft pick Zion Williamson was expected to be on the court for the Pelicans. We have yet to see him this season. As a result, New Orleans is 16 games under .500. Denver was second in the West as of Monday but will be up against the 70% home team trend above.

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