NBA situational spots for bettors to watch

By Adam Burke  ( 


Time management skills are essential for being a successful bettor. It is a business in which time truly is money. Being able to budget time wisely and in the most efficient manner creates opportunities for profit. A lot of people think you have to know all of the players and be a master of the stats, but the reality is that you can create a strong framework by simply being organized.

Time-saving shortcuts can really help, and that is a big part of my strategy with the NBA. With 82 games, a rugged travel schedule and 16 playoff teams, you’re simply not going to get a fully engaged team every night. That is where situational spots come into the handicapping.

Let me emphasize that these are not sole justifications for a bet. They are starting points to begin handicapping so that I can narrow my focus on the card. I don’t have a lot of time for the NBA, but I can cherry-pick the games that interest me to see if the spread lines up with my thoughts.


First game back: The first game back after a road trip can be a tough one. Instead of being out with the boys and focused solely on basketball, the players come home to their families and all of the things that most people deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes there can be a bit of jet lag to overcome as well.

Most will say you need at least four straight road games for this angle, but that first game after some travel does seem to be a pretty tricky spot. It won’t always work out that way, and some instances will feel stronger than others. Complacency can set in a bit at home as well and home-court advantage may have overinflated the line.

Last game of a road trip / first game of a road trip: Another popular situational spot is to fade a team at the end of a long road trip. It’s especially true if the team has already secured a winning record on the road trip or at least a .500 record. Teams set an unspoken goal of going .500 on the road and taking care of business at home.

If a road trip has been particularly grueling, with a lot of miles, different start times, quality opponents or games at altitude, this angle gets stronger.

On the flip side, teams usually play well in the first game of a road trip. The goal is to get the trip off on the right foot, so more emphasis is placed on those games. It also increases the margin for error for the rest of the trip.

Rapid Revenge theory: There was a situation like this a couple of weeks ago. The Knicks and Celtics were playing a home-and-home and Boston lost the first game 108-105. In the second game, Boston held serve at home with a 99-75 victory. Athletes don’t like to lose. When they do, they have memories like elephants. In these quick turnarounds, they don’t have to wait long for a shot at revenge.

Unless it is a really lopsided mismatch, I like to focus on the loser of the first game if the teams are playing a week or less apart.

Superstar Subtraction theory: Major injuries happen in the NBA all the time. As we know, the league is predominantly driven by superstars. When one goes down, everybody else rallies, at least for a game or two, to pick up the slack. The longer an injury lingers, the less likely a team is to keep up that kind of pace because the loss of a consistent producer is very hard to overcome. 

However, for a game or two, that team will be hyper-focused, whether it is the “Win one for the Gipper” mentality, or simply everybody trying to take advantage of the vacated spotlight. This is a short-term angle, but one that can work out, especially with overreactions to injuries in the betting market.

The Letdown / The Lookahead: Basketball players are human beings. We’re all prone to looking ahead to something or having our production and performance drop off a bit after a big moment. It may not seem like a big deal because these players are on TV every night, but it can be a really big spot to play a rival or a top contender on ESPN or TNT. I like to try to go against those teams in the game before or after.

Looking ahead to a revenge game could also be a possibility. Or a Western Conference team might play the Pistons before playing the Bucks. Or it could take on the Knicks before facing the Nets. Those measuring-stick games matter. But teams could go through the motions before or after those bigger games. 

Again, these are not going to be the sole reason to make a bet. They are part of the handicapping process, but something that can point you in the right direction. The situation and the odds still have to line up. For example, a bad travel spot with a back-to-back isn’t nearly as daunting if a star player sat out the night before. The same is true if that team got embarrassed the night before. They’re more likely to step up and get back on track in the second game.

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