Recent NBA Finals betting trends
In recent weeks on VSiN.com, I have unveiled some of the best betting systems and trends for the early rounds of the NBA playoffs. Now, as the association moves on to the Finals after a pair of conference finals series that couldn’t have been more different, I’ll share the key info you might need to bet this Finals matchup between Denver and Miami.
On paper, this matchup is not expected to be close, with the Nuggets favored by 8.5 points in Game 1 and -450 for the series. That shouldn’t come as a major surprise considering that Denver is a No. 1 seed that won 53 games in the regular season while Miami is a No. 8 that had to survive the play-in tournament to even qualify for the playoffs. However, as the Heat have been a regular Finals participant and one of the top teams of the 21st century, the Nuggets are in search of their first championship. The series has uber stars in Nikola Jokic and Jimmy Butler as well as some high-quality secondary players, so it should be entertaining to watch, starting on Thursday with Game 1. Should the series go seven games, it will wrap up on Sunday, June 18.
Before getting into the specific trends, you should know that three of the last four Finals series have been seed upsets, breaking a streak of five straight wins by the better seed. Miami will attempt to run that to four out of five. Also note that outright winners in the NBA Finals are 47-2-2 ATS over the last nine seasons, including 6-0 ATS a year ago. This is a glowing endorsement for moneyline wagering on underdogs. I’ll get into more of that later.
This is the final part of a four-part series. I hope you’ve enjoyed and profited from it, and that continues over the next couple of weeks.
As I reasoned in the first three articles of this package, 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, alternatively, which favorites will end a series quickly can really boost your wagering profit in this round and all others. 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.
• In the last 10 playoff seasons, the better seeds own a 6-3 edge in series wins and a 30-21 game wins edge during that span. However, they are just 10-14 in games over the last four Finals series. In 2016, Cleveland and Golden State were both No. 1 seeds.
• This will be the ninth time in 10 seasons that the West representative had a better regular-season record. In that time, the team with the better regular-season record is 8-2.
• This will be the eighth time since 2013 that one of the teams won at least 10% more games in the regular season. In those other seven recent series, the series record is 6-1 and the individual game record is 27-14.
• The Heat boast a significant Finals experience advantage of late, having been in the title series three times since 2013. They are 1-2 in series and 7-11 in individual games.
• I explained in the conference finals round that there had been a massive advantage of late for the teams that had played fewer games in the first two rounds. That continued this season as the Nuggets easily moved past the Lakers and the Heat were able to survive a Game 7 in Boston to advance. There is no such advantage for the Finals, as is the nine series since 2013 in which teams played an uneven number of games in the first three rounds, the Finals team that played fewer games is just 4-5 in series wins and 26-26 in individual wins. For 2023, Denver has lost three games in the playoffs to this point, Miami six.
104 points is a low benchmark for NBA Finals success: The 2016 Finals series was the first in which totals reached into the current levels. Since that time, teams that score 104 points or less in an NBA Finals game have struggled badly, going just 5-25 SU and ATS.
Success accompanies reaching the 115-point mark: Using the same season noted above as the benchmark, teams scoring 115 points or more boast a record of 19-3 SU and 16-3-3 ATS over the last seven years. If you recall, the magic number for the conference finals was 116 points.
Home teams are only a slightly better wagering option: Hosts in the NBA Finals are 29-23 SU and 26-25-1 ATS since 2013.
Favorites on a recent surge: NBA Finals favorites are on a surge of 9-4 SUand ATS in the last 13 games. In the 10 games before that, they were just 1-8-1 ATS.
Winners cover: Over the last nine seasons, and 51 games, outright winners have gone 47-2-2 ATS (95.9%) in the NBA Finals.
Totals leaning UNDER of late: In the 58 NBA Finals games since 2013, there have been 27 OVERs, 29 UNDERs and two ties, although UNDER is on a 15-10-1 run in the last 26 games.
Trends by Line Range
Big home favorites get it done: Since the start of the 2013 playoffs, NBA Finals home favorites of 4.5 points or more are 21-6 SU and 18-8-1 ATS (69.2%). This success level is similar to that from the conference finals round. Denver is already an 8.5-point home favorite for Game 1.
Small home favorites have been vulnerable: Again like the conference finals, the record of the last 17 small home favorites (-4 points or less) in the NBA Finals is just 6-11 SU and ATS (35.3%).
Home underdogs lack bite: Home underdogs in the NBA Finals have proven to be overmatched recently, going just 1-5 SU and ATS in their last six opportunities. This figures to apply to the Heat home games barring a massive series swing or injury.
Games with vulnerable home teams have meant OVERs: Fifteen of the last 26 NBA Finals games with home teams playing as underdogs or favorites of four points or less have gone OVER the total, with the opponent averaging 110.7 PPG in the last 15.
Last Game Trends
Bad shooting games have carried over negative momentum in the Finals: Teams coming off NBA Finals games in which they shot worse than 41.5% are just 5-13 SU and ATS (27.8%) outright in their last 18 tries.
Good 3-point shooting games don’t carry momentum: While poor shooting games overall don’t bode well for teams in the next NBA Finals game, neither does hot 3-point shooting, as teams that shoot 47% or better from deep have gone just 5-12 SU and 4-12-1 ATS (25%) in the follow-up outing.
Embarrassing losses have galvanized teams: In the last 10 NBA Finals series, three games have been decided by 30 points or more. In all three cases, the team that lost bounced back with an outright and ATS win in the next game, all by double-digit margins.
Other double-digit losses have carried over: In the trend above I noted that the last three teams beaten by 30 or more bounced back well in recent NBA Finals. That is not the case for all other double-digit defeats, as teams that suffered those have gone just 9-17 SU and 7-17-2 ATS (29.2%) in the following game. If you recall, all six games of the 2022 NBA Finals were decided by double-digit margins.
Trends by Game Number
NBA Finals’ opening games have sided with the home teams/favorites of late: Including the neutral-court game of 2020, home teams/favorites are on an 8-1 SU surge (7-2 ATS) in NBA Finals Game 1s. The average margin of victory in the eight wins has been 13.8 PPG. However, the sole loss did come a year ago in Boston’s upset win at Golden State.
Home teams/favorites have also fared well in Game 2s of late: I just showed how well Game 1 home teams/favorites have done lately, well, they are also getting it done in Game 2, going 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in the last seven seasons.
Game 3s have been a momentum squelcher: The team that wins Game 2 in the last 10 NBA Finals has gone just 3-7 SU and ATS in Game 3. All seven of the losses were by double-digit margins as well.
Home teams/favorites struggle in Game 4s: Hosts/favorites have gone just 3-6 SU and 2-7 ATS in the NBA Finals since 2013.
Home teams that won Game 3 are bad bets in Game 4s: Home teams that won their NBA Finals Game 3 are 1-4 SU and ATS since 2013 in Game 4, losing all three times by double digits, despite being favored in three of the games.
Defense/fatigue has ruled Game 4s: The first three games of the last nine NBA Finals have produced 211.6 PPG on average. Game 4 has seen a significant drop to 204.2, with eight of the last nine going UNDER the total.
Game 5 home teams/favorites have struggled since 2015: Only one of the last six Game 5 home teams/favorites has covered their point spreads, going 2-4 SU and 1-4-1 ATS.
Momentum has been a big factor in Games 5-7: The later a series gets, the more important momentum has become, as teams coming off a double-digit win in an NBA Finals game are 7-4 SU and 8-2-1 ATS in Games 5-7 of a series.
Teams facing elimination in Game 6 have most often bowed out: Seven teams have faced elimination in Game 6 of the NBA Finals since 2013. These teams are 2-5 SU and 1-6 ATS in those games.
Trends by Seed Number
(Note that this year’s Finals matches a No. 1 in Denver versus a No. 8 in Miami)
Top seeds have been a bankroll drainer: The record of No. 1 seeds in the NBA Finals since 2017 is just 7-7 SU and 4-8-2 ATS.
Teams seeded third or worse have been great late-series options: The last three NBA Finals have featured one of the teams playing as a seed of third or worse. These teams have been gold in Games 3 and later of their respective series, going 9-3 SU and 10-2 ATS.