7 months ago - 6 minute read

How to Bet on the NBA

The National Basketball Association (NBA) consists of 30 teams divided evenly into the Eastern and Western Conference, with each conference consisting of 3 divisions. It is the second most popular sport in the United States and like the NFL, has a wealth of stats and data freely available for you to build a betting strategy around.

There is an exhaustive amount of stats and data available, but a lot of it can be a distraction from a winning strategy rather than a stepping stone to bigger profits. We’ll run through the ways you can bet on the NBA, how the markets work, and some basic strategies for making money on the NBA.

Handicap Betting

The disparity in quality between teams in the NBA means handicap or point spread betting is one of the easiest ways to make money betting on the NBA. The handicap line evens the game from a betting perspective when two teams aren’t evenly matched. Say the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Philadelphia 76ers at home. The Cavs are very likely to beat the 76ers, so the handicap line on the game might be Philadelphia +14.5 at Cleveland -14.5. This line would be the one closest to 2.0 or even money on the market.

In this example, betting on the 76ers will win you money if they manage to somehow win or if they lose by less 14 points or less. Cavaliers bettors need Cleveland to win by at least 15 points to win their bet.

It’s important to keep in mind that when teams amass a big lead early in a game they might decide to take out their starting players later to rest them for the next game. This can result in a ‘back door cover’ where the underdog team still loses but comes back enough to cover the high spread.

Moneyline and Totals

Moneyline bets can be harder to build a winning betting strategy around as the favourite team usually wins. Moneyline bets is betting on the straight to-win scenario. Betting on the Cavaliers on the moneyline in the above example would see minimal returns as they would be priced at around 1.1 or less.

You can also bet on the total points that will be scored in the game by betting OVER or UNDER a set number of points. If the total is set at 190.5, the combined number of points scored between the two teams must be at least 191 for the OVER to pay out, or under 190 or under for the UNDER to pay out.

Kevin Durant was instrumental in the Warriors success last season.

Home Court

The home team generally gains a few points in the handicap line as they will usually perform better in front of their own crowd in a familiar setting. Home court advantage is given particular attention when the opposing team has a long distance to travel or is at the end of a series of road games. Betting on rested teams at home coming up against a team with no rest at the end of a road series can often net positive results.

Backing home underdogs is a particular favourite of NBA bettors and knowing which teams usually over-perform at home can be very useful when they come up against bigger teams like the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs. Home underdogs on a line of +10 or more will often rise to the occasion and cover against the bigger name teams.

Fade the Favourite

As with the NFL, one of the central strategies to making money from the NBA long-term is to avoid big favourites as the public perception tends to cause them to be overvalued in the markets. As mentioned before, if a team is up by 10 or more points late into the final quarter they will often step off the accelerator and allow the other team to make a slight comeback.

Remember, covering the handicap is important to bettors but is of no interest to teams looking to make the NBA Finals. A win is a win in the mind of every head coach.

Use Every Advantage

Basketball is a fast-paced games that can have multiple swings during the course of a game. As a result, trading in and out of positions in-play can be a very effective strategy for making money on the NBA.

There are a number of sites out there that provide statistical information for historical games and even games currently in-play that can inform your betting. NBA.com is a good starting point, while Betting Expert provides some more in-depth analysis.

You can bet on every NBA game in-play with Matchbook. Find all of Matchbook’s NBA betting markets here.