Cinco de Mayo NBA Playoff Action: Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers
Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trail Blazers
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
May 5, 2019, 3:30 PM PDT
The Blazers eked out a win and cover in game three to assume a 2-1 lead in the NBA Western Conference Semifinals matchup with the second-seeded Nuggets. Quite remarkably, Portland's win required four overtime periods to arbitrate. Prior to this instance, the last playoff game to go four extra periods was played in 1953!
As a result of the extended minutes many key personnel played in game three, we hear plenty of rumbling about the likelihood of the UNDER to cash in after today's action. The rationale supporting such thinking is fairly straightforward: after depleting the gas tank Friday evening, players will have limited stamina today, which should translate to depressed offensive productivity.
We turned to the data to get a sense of whether this hypothesis holds up under scrutiny. While quadruple-overtimes are a rarity in post-season action, thanks to our friends at Land of Basketball.com, we identified a sample of 39 playoff contests since 1952 that were not decided until after at least two overtime periods. BetLabsSports has O/U results for the following game for nine of these contests. The graphic below summarizes the available O/U data for games after very long playoff games.
While quadruple-OT's are a playoff rarity, and our sample of post-season games with two to three overtime periods is small, OVERs have been slightly more likely to cash in than UNDERs after long playoff contests. Thus, we push back against the swirling narrative that disappointing scores are more probable than excessive offensive output today.
As an alternative to betting the total, we are anxiously watching the distribution of the percent of public spread bets versus the percent of dollars wagered against the spread. We have remarked several times now that following the money has been quite profitable in recent years (see here for our most recent discussion of this topic).
As of the time of this writing, 54% of spread bets and 59% of dollars wagered versus the number are down on the home team, suggesting that bettors of the sharper variety are aligned with Portland to collect the ATS win. This signal has been a lights out guide to betting the playoffs over the last few years, and is continuing its strong performance this season.
However, the percent of spread dollars thrown the Blazers way peaked this morning in the high 70s, and has come way down since. We will be eagerly watching this trend as the day progresses. If the tide totally reverses and this contest closes with a greater percentage of dollars wagered backing Denver than the percentage of bets laid, we will throw our support behind the Nuggets to cover the whole game and first half spreads, as teams (especially in the West) have been very strong 1H plays facing squads that beat them straight up in their two prior outings.
If, on the other hand, Portland can hold its edge in percent of dollars bet versus percentage of bets laid, we will be inclined to back the Blazers against the full game line.