Understanding Momentum Swings

Understanding Momentum Swings

Learn how to understand NBA momentum swings, when to predict them, and how to leverage them when making your NBA picks and placing your bets.

Understanding NBA Momentum Swings

The NBA is often called a game of runs, where one team scores 11 unanswered points in a row, then the other team comes back with a 15-2 run. Because of the high scoring nature of the NBA, compared to virtually every other sport on the planet, there are more opportunities for teams to go on major scoring sprees. But, traditionally, handicapping basketball runs has been impossible. Even if you feel that a team is about to get hot, your bet was already placed, so there is nothing you can do. However, now with live NBA betting, you can forecast and place bets anticipating which NBA team is about to go on a huge run.

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What is Momentum in NBA Betting?

In 2021, the average NBA game is seeing almost 230 points being scored. Compare that to almost 50 points per game in the NFL, 8 runs per game in the NBA and about 6 goals per game in the NHL. Even in college basketball, forty minute games and a longer shot clock mean the college game is significantly lower scoring than the NBA.

In the NBA, shot clocks are 24 seconds long and the game is 48 minutes, so an average NBA game features approximately 100 possessions for each team. Teams are also shooting significantly more three pointers than ever before, playing a run-and-gun style of basketball where they shoot earlier in the 24 second period. A major part of the modern game is that teams, or even one specific player, can get extremely hot from three point range and can go on a massive run in a short amount of time, severely impacting NBA betting trends.

Teams can turn a tie game into a fifteen point lead, or cut a fifteen point lead to two in seemingly no time at all. Alternatively, teams can get ice cold shooting primarily long three pointers and it can seem like there is a forcefield around the basket. Runs can also happen because of lock down defense or indifferent play.

One recent example of a massive run was in the 2019 playoffs when the Golden State Warriors took a 94-63 lead in Game 2 of their playoff series with the Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles stormed back against the heavily favored Warriors, scoring the next seven points and outsourcing the Warriors 31-14 for the rest of the third quarter.

In the fourth period, Los Angeles kept the momentum up, outsourcing the Warriors 41-23 in the fourth quarter to pull off the shocking upset. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game that “we stopped playing” in the third quarter of the game. Even one of the best teams in NBA history fell victim to being on the wrong side of a run.

How to Predict Momentum Swings in an NBA Game

In an era where you can make live bets on NBA games, you now have the ability to predict and capitalize on NBA momentum swings. The way to do that is to bet on the “dips” in an NBA game. Here’s how that can work:

Take a look at the NBA betting odds of an upcoming slate of games and find the teams that are significant favorites to win, say a -6 or larger favorite. Also, you should look at how teams have done previously in their recent matchups against each other, an example of which you can see in the chart below, and also look at both teams betting odds in those games.

NBA team betting odds
NBA team betting odds

On a randomly selected night, there might be a trio of games that fit that mold. On this night, the largest NBA betting favorites are: the Milwaukee Bucks, who are 11 point home favorites against the New York Knicks, the New Orleans Pelicans, who are 8 point home favorites against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Miami Heat, who are 6.5 point favorites against the Orlando Magic.

When the game starts, wait for one of the underdogs to go on a run or take an early lead. So, if the Knicks race off to an early 21-10 lead against the Bucks, their moneyline odds might fall precipitously. The Knicks might have started this game as a +450 or larger underdog, but after the hot start their number could drop all the way to +300 or even +280. The play there is not to now take the Knicks on the moneyline, but to reaffirm a bet on the Bucks.

You can also use teams with elite benches to your advantage. A team might trail early because their starters are struggling against another team’s starters, but the metrics say their bench is going to blow the other team’s bench away when they play for a lengthy stretch at end of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter.

The Bucks in-game moneyline odds will likely have dropped from -500 or more to something more reasonable like -380. That is the ideal time to pounce on a favorite and get the Bucks at a more affordable moneyline price or to take them on the in-game spread, which will have dipped to single digits at this point in all likelihood. If you track the top few favorites each night, placing early in-game bets can make basketball betting very lucrative.

How to Leverage Momentum in NBA Betting

For years, after you bet on an NBA game you were at the mercy of the two teams. You could watch a game and live with the ups and downs, but there was no real way to adjust your bets in-game.

With the proliferation of legal NBA online betting and now the explosion of in-game betting, NBA bettors can now also place in-game wagers on every game. One thing to know about in-game betting is that you need to make a snap judgment. You might spend three days analyzing a matchup and picking a team to bet on, but with live in-game betting you might only have five seconds to grab the odds you are looking at before they change.

Live NBA odds betting
Live NBA odds betting

For example, with live NBA betting if the Hawks break open a tie game against the Magic with a 7-0 run, the Magic’s moneyline odds might reach a number that was unavailable to bet pre-game. But you better act fast, because if Orlando responds with a quick three pointer, those odds will be gone immediately. In this case, you are reacting to a momentum swing by betting against the team with the momentum, because you are betting that the tide will turn in the immediate future.

What Kind Of Momentum-Related Bets Can You Place?

There are many ways that you can take advantage of momentum when it comes to NBA betting, particularly NBA moneyline or points spread betting. Many experts use halftime in-game betting to adjust after watching the first half of a game.

Perhaps you thought the Nuggets would easily defeat the Blazers, but after watching one half of play you see that Denver just has no answer for Damian Lillard and wants to jump on Portland with a second half bet. Even if you have made a pre-game bet on the Nuggets, you have a chance to cancel out your losses by jumping on the hot hand, which is Portland in this hypothetical.

Another way of dealing with momentum is the Zig-Zag betting theory. This theory primarily focuses on NBA playoffs betting, where a team wins its first two games at home. The philosophy is that you should bet the team trailing 2-0 once they go back home, because their odds will be longer than they would have been at the start of a series, and they have only lost a pair of road games, which is to be expected in playoff basketball.

Another way to zig when others are zagging is to bet against the team that goes on a run, particularly early in a game, knowing that the cold team will eventually turn things around.

While many people like MLB moneyline betting, there is also serious value in betting on an in-game points spread. A hot start for one team might change the spread significantly, but if you were confident that a specific team was going to win, a poor first quarter shouldn’t change your opinion ultimately, since there is more than enough time for a team to come back from a large deficit in an NBA game.

Live Betting on the NBA

One unique difference between traditional NBA betting and in-game NBA betting is that to bet during gamers, you really need to be watching the game. An experienced bettor might be using advanced metrics or an algorithm to bet on games, which does not always necessitate actually watching the gamers you have wagered on. But with live betting, you need to be on top of every game you are considering betting on, and willing and able to make snap judgments in a matter of seconds.

In general, to be a serious NBA live-game bettor, you need to watch as many games as possible to get a feel for when a team might turn things around, or when they are just having an off night.

In terms of momentum, remember to not be swayed too much by a quick run and even consider betting on the team that does not have the momentum, since these things usually even themselves out over a 48 minute game. So, first research the NBA betting odds and do your homework, and then, if you want to step up your game as a bettor, you can start making in-game NBA bets.

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