Late-season impact of NBA back-to-backs

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

© Imagn

If you’ve been monitoring NBA point spreads lately, you’ve probably seen some surprises jump off the page. That’s because we’ve reached the point in the season when oddsmakers pay close attention to back-to-back spots on the schedule. 

The Brooklyn Nets are in one of those Wednesday night. They host Memphis after visiting Boston on Tuesday. How big an adjustment should be made? Earlier in the season, the line might not have varied more than a point from expectations. Now adjustments as high as two or three points are being made regularly across the league. 

Here are some reasons back-to-backs impact the line more heavily in March and April:

— Sustained fatigue: The wear and tear of a long season is taking its toll. Many teams, particularly non-contenders, just don’t have the energy to bring intensity two nights in a row. That has been reflected in results for years. After getting hurt by sharps, oddsmakers now plan in advance. 

— Tankapalooza: VSiN subscribers are aware of Gill Alexander’s annual foray into betting strategies on his weekday show “A Numbers Game” involving NBA teams actively trying not to win. Many non-contending franchises are motivated to lose for draft position. Brain trusts putting iffy lineups on the court could see those players struggle extra badly on Night 2 of a back-to-back.  

— Load management: Even contending teams will punt in late-season fatigue spots rather than risk injuries. That means resting stars or cutting defensive intensity to pace themselves for the games that matter most in the postseason. Particularly on the road, it’s not unusual to see good teams getting more points than you’d expect on Night 2 of a back-to-back. 

How should handicappers adapt?

— Review performances in back-to-back spots earlier in the season for each team — or at least the teams you like to handicap most. Then assume things will be worse the next several weeks, particularly when the straight-up result doesn’t matter.

— Monitor the allotment of minutes in recent box scores to see if you can spot which changes coaches are making. Shallow teams get hit harder by fatigue than deep teams. 

— If you’re watching games on TV, monitor rotations throughout the 48 minutes. You might be able to spot five-man collections involving bench players that just can’t compete at this level. Use that information for in-game opportunities.

— Don’t auto-bet in either direction. The market is already aware of fatigue potential and is making meaningful adjustments. Blindly fading tired teams will probably break even over the long haul. But assuming the market has overreacted is likely a mistake as well. Dig deeper to confirm real edges.


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