NBA playoffs: Conference finals trends

May 17, 2022 06:54 PM

Recently I shared some of the best betting systems and trends for the early rounds of the NBA playoffs. Now, after what was one of the more competitive and surprising second rounds in recent memory, it’s time for the conference finals and the key info you might need to bet this round.

The Eastern Conference finals is the expected matchup, at least in terms of seeds, as No. 1 Miami takes on No. 2 Boston. The two lower seeds won in the West, meaning No. 3 Golden State will take on No. 4 Dallas with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. The Celtics and Warriors are the favorites.

This is Part 3 of a four-part series, with just the NBA Finals segment to go. We already know that the Finals are scheduled to tip off on June 2, so you will see that last piece in Issue No. 41 of PSW. 

Series trends

As I’ve mentioned previously, being able to predict an upset in a series will give you a leg up on a game-by-game wagering basis. Accurately projecting which underdogs will push a series deep or which favorites will end a series quickly can really boost your wagering profit. Take a look at some of these series trends based on won-lost records at various points of the regular season and in the playoffs to date. 

— There have been 18 conference finals series over the last nine playoff seasons, and the better seeds own an 11-7 edge in series wins and a 26-21 edge in game wins during that span. There have been four sweeps, three by the better seed.

— There have been five conference finals series over the last nine playoff seasons that matched teams whose regular-season win totals were within two of one another, as with both of this year’s matchups. Those series have been almost toss-ups, with the better-seeded team winning twice (13 game wins) and the lesser seed winning three times (14 game wins).

— Winning 70%+ of regular-season games is a key benchmark of conference championship series success for better seeds. Those that did and weren’t facing a 70%+ win team are 8-1 in series and 32-16 in games. Those that won fewer than 70% of their regular-season games are just 1-4 in their last five conference finals series (12-18 in games). Both Miami and Golden State won 64.6% of their games this season.

— There has been a massive advantage of late in analyzing the earlier playoff round performances of the teams in a conference finals series. Teams that played fewer games in the first two rounds — or, in other words, lost fewer games in those series — are on a 15-1 conference finals series run. Two of the 18 series matched teams that played an equal number of games. The only team to lose after playing fewer games was Milwaukee in 2019. Considering this information for 2022, the East finals are even with each team having lost three playoff games, and Golden State owning an edge (3-5) over Dallas in the West.

— Teams that played a Game 7 in either of the first two rounds have won just one of their last 10 conference finals series when matched up against an opponent that did not play in a Game 7. 

Scoring trends

— 94 points is a low benchmark for conference finals success: Teams that score 94 points or fewer in a conference finals playoff game have struggled badly, going just 9-47 SU and 10-46 ATS since 2013. 

— Success accompanies reaching the 116-point mark: Conference finals playoff teams scoring 116 points or more boast a record of 38-1 SU and 37-0-2 ATS over the last nine seasons. 

Trends by line range

— Big favorites are slowing: From 2013 to 2018, conference finals favorites of five points or more were 35-6 SU and 28-13 ATS. Since then, they are just 8-6 SU and 5-8-1 ATS. 

— Small home favorites have been solid, small road favorites have been very vulnerable: Home favorites of 4.5 points or less are on an 8-3 SU and 7-4 ATS surge. Road favorites in the same line range are just 5-9 SU and 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 tries. 

— High totals have meant Unders: Of the 36 games in the last seven conference finals with totals of 216.5 or higher, 23 have gone Under the total. There’s a chance the West finals of 2022 could get into this range. 

— Totals in the 209-216 range have been most apt to see Over results: There have been 23 games in the last eight conference finals series that have seen totals in this range, and 17 of them have gone Over. 

Last-game trends

— Zig-zag theory is alive and well in conference finals: In the last two conference finals, teams coming off outright losses in conference finals games are 13-6 SU and 14-4-1 ATS in their 19 follow-up games. Those that lost by single digits are 13-4 Under the total in their next game. 

— Playing on the road after a close loss has been a bad scenario: Teams coming off losses of 10 points or fewer and playing on the road are just 1-11 SU and 3-9 ATS in conference finals games dating to 2014. 

Trends by game number

— Conference finals opening games have been a relative toss-up lately: Home teams hold a 7-5 SU edge, but road teams are 7-5 ATS in conference finals Game 1s since 2015. 

— The last four conference finals Game 1 have been offensive explosions: Four straight conference finals Game 1s have gone Over the total, producing 233.5 points per game, surpassing posted totals by almost 18 PPG.

— Unders have prevailed in Game 2s lately: Since 2014, Game 2 Unders are on an 11-4-1 run, including 3-0-1 in the last four games coming off huge Game 1 offensive outbursts. Defensive adjustments have led to a 24 PPG drop-off from Game 1 output in that four-game span. 

— Home teams that win the opening game usually win Game 2 as well: The last eight conference finals Game 2 home teams that won Game 1 are 8-0 SU and 5-3 ATS in the follow-up game. 

— 2-0 leads aren’t secure in conference finals: Teams that are up 2-0 in Game 3 of conference finals are just 3-7 SU & 2-8 ATS in their last 10 tries. 

— Teams that lost big in Game 2 bounce back well in Game 3: An interesting trend in the last eight playoff seasons is that teams that lost Game 2 of a conference finals series by double digits are on a surge of 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS in Game 3.

— Home teams NOT down 3-0 are strong plays in Game 4: Home teams not facing elimination in Game 4 have fared very well of late, going 10-2 SU and 9-3 ATS, including five straight outright upsets. 

— Teams facing elimination in Game 4 have generally laid down: Teams facing elimination in Game 4 of the conference finals have gone just 1-4 SU and 1-3-1 ATS in their last five tries and have allowed 120.3 points per game in the most recent four games. 

— Home teams that won Game 3 are also good Game 4 bets: Conference finals hosts that won Game 3 are also on a 7-2 SU and ATS run in Game 4. 

— The better seeds win Games 5s: The better-seeded teams have dominated Game 5s in conference finals of late, going 11-3 SU and ATS since 2013. In all 14 of those games, the outright winner covered the point spread as well. 

— Favorites are on a huge Game 5 run: Teams laying the points have gone 11-3 SU and ATS in conference finals Game 5s, although Phoenix did lose at home to the Clippers last year. 

— The team that lost Game 4 is a solid Game 5 play: Teams that lost Game 4 are on a 10-4 SU and ATS run in Game 5 of the conference finals. 

— Game 5s with closeout implications have been high scoring: Since 2016, conference finals Game 5s have gone 5-0 Over when a team is attempting to close out the series, with games producing 227.8 PPG. 

— Game 6s have trended Over the total: Seven of the last 11 conference finals Game 6s have gone Over the total. 

— Teams have capitalized on Game 6 closeout opportunities: The last four conference finals teams attempting to close out a series in a Game 6 have won SU and ATS, by an average of 14 PPG. Two of the wins were outright upsets. 

— Game 7s have trended Under: All four Game 7s over the last nine seasons have gone Under the total by a margin of 21.5 PPG.

— Game 6 wins have provided momentum for Game 7: Teams that won Game 6 to force a Game 7 have gone 3-1 SU and ATS in the last four series-deciding games.

Trends by seed number

— No. 1 seeds struggle as small favorites and/or underdogs: In their last 39 conference finals games when playing as underdogs or favorites of 4.5 points or fewer, No. 1 seeds are just 13-26 SU and 14-24-1 ATS. 

— Lay the wood with No. 1 seeds: Top-seeded teams have been stellar at covering big point spreads, going 23-3 SU and 17-9 ATS in the conference finals when favored by 6.5 points or more. 

— No. 1 seeds thrive after close wins: Top-seeded teams are on an 8-3 SU and 9-2 ATS conference finals run when coming off a same series single-digit win. 

— No. 1 seeds are solid bets late in a series: in their last 20 Games 5-7, No. 1 seeds are 13-7 SU and ATS, with outright winners going a perfect 20-0 ATS in those games. 

— No. 2 seeds are solid chalk wagers: Conference finals No. 2 seeds are on a 26-9 SU and 22-13 ATS run as favorites. 

— No. 2 seeds are tempting as large dogs, but they have struggled: No. 2 seeds are on a slide of 3-19 SU and 6-16 ATS as underdogs of five points or more in the conference finals over the last eight years. 

— Teams seeded No. 3 or worse bounce back well from losses: Teams seeded No. 3 or lower are on a 10-5 SU and 12-3 ATS surge in their 15 conference finals games when coming off a loss. 

— No. 3 and lower-seeded teams struggle to put back-to-back wins together: No. 3 seeds or worse and coming off a win in a conference finals game are just 6-16 SU and 6-15-1 ATS in the follow-up game. 

— Low seeds struggle defensively in elimination games: Teams seeded No. 3 or worse have gone just 2-5 SU and 2-4-1 ATS in their last seven tries when facing elimination in the conference finals, allowing 117 PPG is such games.

Trends by teams closing out series or facing elimination

— Road teams looking to close out series have fared well: The last five teams looking to close out a conference finals series on the road have done so, going 5-0 SU and 4-0-1 ATS. 

— Lay the points in closeout games: Conference finals teams looking to close out a series have gone 9-1 SU and ATS when favored by more than 4.5 points since ’13, outscoring opponents by 16.8 PPG. 

— Closeout games have been definitive: There have been 27 potential series closeout games in the conference finals in the last nine seasons and outright winners are 26-0-1 ATS. 

— Closeout games have been high scoring: The last six conference finals games in which a team had the chance to close out a series have gone Over the total, producing 227.8 PPG on totals averaging 215.4.

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