How to Bet on the NBA Playoffs

Learn the best practices, tips, and strategies to bet successfully on the NBA playoffs. Get information on recommended bet types, NBA playoffs odds, and more.

NBA Playoffs

No major sport has more of a jump in quality between the regular season and the postseason than the NBA. While regular season basketball is exciting the NBA playoffs move the intensity and quality of basketball up several notches and the result is a great product to watch, and to bet on.

The modern NBA postseason contains about 80 games; the 2019-20 playoffs featured 83 games, which presents many betting opportunities. Additionally, the NBA has introduced a new format, the play-in tournament which provides extra games for the fans before the playoffs even begin.

There are many different ways to bet on the NBA playoffs and the first of which is NBA futures. You can place future bets on teams to make or miss the playoffs, bet on which team will win their division or finish with the best record in their respective conference. Additionally, there are far more NBA prop bets in the playoffs because of the level of attention paid to each game and the fact that there are fewer games each day for the oddsmakers to set lines on.

You can also place future bets during the playoffs and which team will win the title, or place bets on each series with a moneyline bet, in addition to betting on individual games. NBA playoffs futures betting can be more popular with experienced bettors than regular game betting, because you are relying on the outcome of a series of games, which can be less random than the outcome of a single NBA game.

NBA Playoffs: How Do They Work?

Traditionally, the best eight teams in each conference make the NBA playoffs but that has changed in recent years. Now, only the six best teams automatically make the postseason. Then the next four teams are entered in a Play-in tournament.

The way the tournament works is the 7th place team plays the 8th place team, with the winner getting the seven seed in the NBA playoff bracket. Meanwhile, the 9th place team plays the 10th place team with the loser being eliminated. Then, the loser of the 7-8 game plays the winner of the 9-10 game, with the winner of that game making the playoff bracket as the eight seed. This represents the first modern single elimination game in modern NBA history and was added to provide excitement to fans as the playoffs begin.

The way the actual NBA playoffs bracket (pictured below) works is that the one seed plays the eight seed, the four seed plays the five, with the winners of those matchups facing each other, while the two seed plays the seven seed and the three plays the six. Each series is best-of-seven, meaning the first team to win four games advances.

nba playoff table 2020
2020 NBA playoffs – 83 games in total | Sidelines

Each series starts with two games at the higher seed, before moving to the lower seed for two games, while the better seed would host games five and seven, if necessary, while the lower seeded team would host game six. In order to win the NBA Finals, a team would need to win 16 games over the course of four rounds.

Additionally, games are never played on back-to-back days in the NBA playoffs, meaning bettors need not worry about teams being fatigued from playing games on consecutive nights.

What Types of Bets Can You Make During the Playoffs

There are many different types of bets you can make on the NBA playoffs. They include:

  • Single game betting
  • Futures betting
  • Series bets
  • Prop bets

Single game betting

Individual game betting works the same way it does during the regular season. You can bet on a game’s moneyline, the over/under, and of course the spread, in addition to a plethora of props. The most famous recent playoff game was Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors had blown a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers and were hosting Game 7. The Warriors were -5 favorites to win the game, and home teams had been 15-3 in NBA Finals Game 7’s, but the Cavs not only covered, they won 93-89 to pull off the upset and win the championship.

Futures betting

Many people think of futures betting as a bet you make on a team to win the championship before a season begins, but you can actually make futures bets all season long. The team that is the favorite will often have odds of around -250 or -300 before the season, while teams that are likely to make the playoffs but are not considered serious title contenders will have NBA playoffs future odds in the +4000 or +5000 range. You can also place futures bets on the winners of each division or conference, in addition to major awards.

Series Bets

One of the unique factors of NBA playoffs betting is the ability to bet on which team will win each series. For example, the Los Angeles Clippers played the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the 2020 playoffs. The Clippers were heavy favorites to win the series and their series odds were -950. A bet on the Nuggets to win the series ultimately paid out +600 when Denver defeated the Clippers in seven games. You can even place a bet on a team to win a series in a certain number of games. A bet on the Nuggets to specifically win in seven games would have paid out +1200 odds.

Prop Bets

These days you can place prop bets on every NBA game, but during the NBA postseason, the sheer magnitude of prop bets you can place on each game is quite impressive. You can generally bet on the points, rebounds, or assists lines for every relevant player. For example, in Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals you could have wagered on how many points Lebron James would score (O/U 27.5), how many points Bam Adebayo would score (O/U 15.5), and how many assists Rajon Rondo would dish out (O/U 6). Because there are usually only between one and four playoff games in a day, oddsmakers create more lines than they do during the regular season.

What Are the Best NBA Playoff Betting Strategies?

Betting on the playoffs is different from betting on an NBA regular season game for several reasons. Firstly, you don’t need to worry about motivation, in the regular season, certain players, or even an entire team, might take the night off. In the playoffs, every player is trying their hardest.

Also, it is important to know that the cream rises to the top in the playoffs, the best players play more minutes and certain players, particularly ones that can’t create their own shots, get exposed in the postseason. Below are some of the best NBA playoff betting strategies for each type of bet you can make.

For Example:

nba playoff future betting table 2021
NBA futures betting during the playoffs | Sidelines

NBA Playoffs Point Spread Betting

  • It’s imperative to know that home court advantage matters even more in the postseason. The crowds are louder and there is far more pressure to win each game.
  • Momentum shifts play a larger factor in the postseason, as well. Familiarize yourself with the zig zag theory, which states that if a home team loses they are extremely likely to rebound the next game.

NBA Playoffs Prop Bets

  • Put more focus on how a player did against his current playoff opponent than on his season averages. For example, if Jimmy Butler has a 23.5 point total for a game and he averages 25 points on the season but only 18 against, hypothetically, the Celtics, you might want to bet the under.
  • Remember that the winner of a game has little to do with individual props. Just because you think the Mavericks are going to lose a playoff game does not mean you should bet all the Luka Doncic unders. In fact, he might put up huge numbers in a blowout with more lax defense.

NBA Playoffs Moneyline Bets

  • Remember that every team loses. No team has ever gone through the playoffs undefeated. If you see a massive moneyline, don’t run away just because one team is significantly better than the other.
  • Keep momentum swings in mind. Just because Team A lost Game 1 at home does not mean that they will automatically lose Game 2. In fact, statistically they are more likely to rebound and win Game 2.

NBA Playoffs Futures Betting

  • If you are betting on a series winner, remember a key rule: the team with the best player almost always wins an NBA playoff series. If the underdog has the best player, you might want to go in that direction.
  • Teams with players that can create their own shots have a massive advantage in the postseason. There are far fewer open threes in the playoffs than there are in the regular season.
nba off list 2016-2019
Offensive production of NBA Championship teams | Sidelines

NBA Playoffs Over/Under Betting

  • In an era when scoring is out of control, consider the under. Team defense is porous in the regular season but teams will crack down on defense in the regular season and you can take advantage of that, particularly early on in the playoffs.
  • Factor in that there is no back-to-back fatigue in the playoffs. Neither team should be sluggish, so there probably won’t be any schedule losses or nights where one team is just exhausted and scores 88 points.
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You Can Bet on the Outcome of the NBA Playoffs Anytime

Even if it is not the playoff season yet, you can place a bet right now on which teams will make the playoffs or which team will win the NBA Finals. Use the strategies discussed above and remember that the NBA playoffs are practically a different sport than regular season basketball, particularly when it comes to betting. With NBA futures betting, you can bet on the NBA playoffs twelve months a year, so do your research and place your bets.

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