No doubt anyone watching or betting last Sunday's Golden State-L.A. Lakers game had to be shaking their head to a dangerous dizzy spin. Upsets do happen but this one was beyond belief.
Sent off as a commanding -17.5 favorite in Nevada and most prominent offshore sportsbooks including BetOnline, Bovada and Diamond Sports, the Warriors were coming off another 7-game winning streak to the horrible 13-51 Lakers. The game got national attention as part of Kobe Bryant's farewell tour but what resulted was unprecedented. How did the Warriors fall so flat on their faces, getting blown-out 112-95 at the Staples Center? Perhaps Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were under a hypnotic spell shooting 1 for 18 three-pointers or maybe it's just the mathematical betting forces that govern the NBA? Let's take a look:
Golden State is still an amazing 55-6 and could be in line to break the all-time single season NBA mark for wins. But what would you guess betting the Warriors is like night in and night out? How about 33-26-3 according to StatFox.com. Wagering one dollar in every game allowing for the customary vig or vigorish would earn you exactly zero, nada, nothing. A lot of late night excitement but no extra money to spend.
Conversely, not much excitement for the 25-38 Denver Nuggets, who unlikely will even make the playoffs this season. However, they are a winning 33-27-3 against the spread and maybe even better if you earned a likely half point or full point as an underdog in a few games at certain top online sportsbooks.
A Few Reasonable Theories
Amazingly, THE best team against the spread percentage belongs to the San Antonio Spurs at a less than astonishing 60.9% considering their 54-10 straight-up record (84.1%). But not that far off at the very bottom are the Phoenix Suns at 39.7% ATS. At least they earned it with their awful 17-46 record. Trying to find an edge can tire out a handicapper and that might just be the main reason as well.
Fatigue has been the most controversial factor for worsening player injuries in the NBA and it seems to have crept into the betting figures. Add up the 12 game pre-season plus the 82 regular game season before the potential for almost two months of playoff basketball and you have one beat-up team, regardless of their superior athletic condition. We can virtually turn-off any game for three quarters now and show up in the beginning of the fourth. A chance to get a reasonable idea of whether a favorite will cover or succumb to fatigue, losing to the number or straight-up.
A great tool is charting the NBA schedule itself. Although not foolproof, it is not always wise to bet on teams playing back to back games whether a favorite or underdog, especially on the road. Extending that theory, look for teams playing a third game in a fourth or fifth night, which has become common these days in the league.
NFL Recovery Time
As much as NFL football players take a monumental weekly beating, at least they have a week's time to recover with a few season exceptions for 4 to 6 days. The wagering numbers certainly seem to indicate a more un-biased situation for certain best-performance teams. And for the worst ones as well.
Take the Cincinnati Bengals, for example. Including the playoffs, the Bengals were 12-5 straight up and an impressive and equitable 12-3-2 against the spread last season. On the bottom end the Tony Romo-less Dallas Cowboys were 4-12 and an almost identical 4-11-1 ATS.
Over and Under
If you're curious about a better edge wagering NBA totals, it's an absolutely similar to worse situation. Thus far for the 2015-2016 season, the best Over the Total number belongs to the Houston Rockets at only 59.7%. The Miami Heat lead the Under category at 62.9%. Not one team is worse than 42% either Over or Under. Clearly indicating no advantage or trend whatsoever. As horrible as the Philadelphia 76ers are, scoring a paltry 96.5 points per game, you'd win more wagering Over a Sixers total at 35-28 (55%). Maybe the best indication this team needs to add more defense first to become competitive again.
Ironically, of the four professional sports leagues, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been the most vocal about potentially looking at U.S. federal laws to legalize sports wagering. Going through these figures it proves there is no insider or "daily fantasy sports" type edge offering any clear bias to wagering. If league forces could just agree to shorten the season somehow or discuss eliminating a month of unnecessary pre-season action, we might have even better NBA playoffs to look forward to. And possibly not ending the season near July 1st.
Bet on veteran power forwards & point guards who are sure to be making headlines soon, joining NFL wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks in seeking early retirement.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding NFL previews and picks from Glenn, click here.