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NBA playoffs: Key second-round trends

April 26, 2022 07:19 PM
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The first round of the NBA playoffs is proving to be more captivating than usual, with the only sweep coming in the most hyped series. 

Still, the competitiveness tends to ramp up with the stakes, and when the second round tips off, perhaps this weekend, it should present four intriguing matchups. As the NBA playoffs move into the second round, so does my analysis of betting trends and systems. Check back in two or three weeks for more trends ahead of the conference finals.

Before getting into specific trends, you should know that series upsets in the second round come at a higher rate than in the first. Over the previous nine postseasons, 13 of the 72 lower-seeded teams in the first round, or 18.1%, advanced to the second round. In the second round, 11 of 36, or 30.6%, advanced. Five of those 11 second-round upset winners were seeded fourth or lower, including the Clippers (over the Jazz) and the Hawks (over the 76ers) last year. Both the Jazz and 76ers were No. 1 seeds, and two other No. 1s have lost in the second round over the last four postseasons.

Series trends in the second round

As I wrote two weeks ago in my first-round trends report, accurately predicting series upsets or underdogs to take a series deep will give you a leg up on a game-by-game basis. Nailing favorites to end a series quickly will do the same. Here are some series trends (covering all or part of the last nine postseasons) based on various won-lost records in the regular season:

— Of the 16 second-round series to go five games or less, only three were won by the lower-seeded team. In 15 of those 16 series, the winning team had won at least 50 games in the regular season.

— In 21 series in which the higher-seeded team won at least six more games than the lower-seeded team, the higher seed is 17-4 in series and 74-40 in individual games.

— There’s an advantage to playing shorter series in the first round. Teams that played two or fewer first-round games than their opponent are 10-4 in the second round, with a 47-29 record in individual games.

— In somewhat of a contrast, teams that went seven games in the first round are 6-6 in the second round and 33-33 in individual games.

Trends by line range

— Home favorites of 7 points or more are just 28-18 SU and 17-29 ATS (37%) since 2013, which is in direct contrast to first-round trends. All other home favorites are 47-44-1 ATS (51.6%) in the span.

— Road favorites of 5 points or more are 10-0 SU and 8-1-1 ATS (88.9%) since 2013, although the last time this spot came up was 2018.

— Road favorites were a combined 3-8 SU and ATS (27.3%) in 2019 and 2021 (2020 was played on a neutral court).

Last-game trends

— Teams coming off a loss are just 28-33 SU and 24-37 ATS (39.3%) over the last three postseasons. Interestingly, competitive losses have hurt the most, with teams losing by 10 points or less going just 14-20 SU and 12-22 ATS (35.3%).

— An interesting totals trend: After a game decided by 10 points or less, the follow-up game is 18-3-1 (85.7%) to the Under.

— Teams coming off a same-series win and playing at home are on a 10-2 SU and ATS (83.3%) run.

— After a game decided by 3 points or less, road teams are on a 13-7 SU and 14-6 ATS (70%) run.

Trends by game number

— Game 1 home teams are 15-5 SU and 12-7-1 ATS (63.2%) since 2016, with the home team favored in 19 of those 20 games.

— Game 1s are on a 9-3 (75%) run to the Under.

— Game 1 favorites of 6 points or more are on a 14-5 SU and 12-7 ATS (63.2%) run, while favorites of 5.5 points or less are 5-15 SU and 3-16-1 ATS (15.8%).

— Game 1 losers are on a 9-14 SU and 10-13 ATS (43.5%) slide in Game 2, although as underdogs of 7.5 points or more, they are on a 5-1 (83.3%) run.

— Game 2 home favorites of 7 points or less are on a 14-2 SU and 12-4 ATS (75%) run.

— Game 3 road teams are on an 11-9 SU and 14-6 ATS run.

— Game 2 winners are on an 8-5 SU and 10-3 ATS (76.9%) run in Game 3.

— Game 3s are on a 14-6-1 (70%) run to the Under. In 2-0 series, the Under is on a 10-2 (83.3%) run.

— Game 4 favorites are on a 21-7 SU and 18-9-1 ATS (66.7%) run since 2015.

— Game 3 winners are on an 8-2 SU and ATS (80%) run in Game 4.

— Game 5 favorites are 23-8 SU but just 13-18 ATS (41.9%) since 2013. As favorites of 5.5 points or more, they are just 8-15 ATS (34.8%).

— Game 4 losers of 7 points or more are on an 11-9 SU and 14-6 ATS (70%) run in Game 5. 

— Game 6 underdogs are 11-6 SU and 12-5 ATS (70.6%) since 2014. 

— Teams looking to close out a series in Game 6 are on a 3-8 SU and 4-7 ATS (36.4%) slide, including 0-3 SU and ATS as chalk.

— Game 7 favorites are on a 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS slide.

— Game 6 winners are on a 4-3 SU and 5-2 ATS run in Game 7.

Trends by seed number

— After a long run of dominance, No. 1 seeds are just 33-25 SU and 27-30-1 ATS (47.4%) in their last 58 second-round games. At home, No. 1s are just 9-8 SU and 5-11-1 ATS (31.3%) since 2016.

— No. 1s coming off a same-series win are on a 14-7 SU and ATS (66.7%) run.

— No. 2 seeds are 17-11 SU and 19-9 ATS (67.9%) as underdogs since 2015.

— In closeout spots, No. 2s are 4-10 SU and 2-12 ATS (14.3%) since 2018.

— No. 2s coming off a same-series loss are on a 5-6 SU and 2-9 ATS (18.2%) slide. 

— Games involving No. 3 seeds are on a 20-7-1 (74.1%) run to the Under.

— No. 3 road teams are on a 5-19 SU and 7-17 ATS (29.2%) slide.

— No. 3s trying to stave off elimination are on a 9-2 SU and 10-1 ATS (90.9%) run.

— No. 4 seeds are 7-22 SU and 10-18-1 ATS (35.7%) as underdogs since 2015.

— No. 4s trying to stave off elimination are on a 3-7 SU and 3-7 ATS (30%) slide.

— No. 4s coming off a same-series loss are just 6-17 SU and ATS (26.1%) since 2014.

— Upset winners in the first round (teams seeded No. 5 or lower) are 3-27 SU and 11-19 ATS (36.7%) as underdogs of 6 points or more, including 0-7 SU and ATS at home.

— Teams seeded Nos. 5-8 are just 6-12 SU and ATS (33.3%) coming off a same-series win since 2013.

Closeout/elimination trends

— Home teams facing elimination are 12-16 SU and 12-15-1 ATS (44.4%) since 2013.

— Teams trying to close out a series are on a 6-1 ATS run on the road but a 3-7 ATS slide at home.

— Favorites of 5.5 points or more trying to close out a series are 15-8 SU but just 7-15-1 ATS (31.8%) since 2013.

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