NBA betting: The 5 trends you need to know for the play-in tournament

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The home stretch of the NBA season was tough sledding for bettors. While some teams jockeyed for playoff seeding, others were more focused on load management or potential NBA draft positioning. That made things tricky on a night-to-night basis trying to decipher the level of motivation for certain teams.

Thankfully, the guessing games are over as the intensity will pick up significantly on Tuesday and Wednesday when the NBA holds its first-ever play-in tournament. For the first time, four teams from each conference will duke it out to secure the No. 7 and 8 seeds in the East and West for the playoffs.

The action starts on Tuesday in the Eastern Conference with the No. 9 seed Indiana Pacers hosting the No. 10 Charlotte Hornets and No. 7 Boston Celtics hosting No. 8 Washington Wizards. In the Western Conference on Wednesday we’ll see the No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies host the No. 10 San Antonio Spurs before the No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers host the No. 8 Golden State Warriors.

The winner of the 7 vs. 8 matchups will earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser of the respective 7 vs. 8 games will then host the winners of the 9 vs. 10 matchups. The remaining two teams from each conference will then meet with the No. 8 seed on the line.

Got all that? Now that you do, let’s dive into some trends that can hopefully help you win some money this week.

The Lakers haven’t been good ATS, even with LeBron and AD

When the NBA announced this play-in format, nobody expected to see the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers playing in it. But after an injury-plagued season, the Lakers find themselves in a precarious situation.

The Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis back in the lineup after prolonged injury absences, opened as 6.5-point favorites over Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors at BetMGM. As of Monday afternoon, that number has already ticked down to 4.5.

The Lakers have not been kind to bettors this year, so it’s easy to understand why there has been early action on the Golden State side. The Lakers are 32-39-1 against the spread this season, tied with the Indiana Pacers for the sixth-worst mark in the league. At home, the Lakers are just 14-22 ATS with a 12-17 ATS mark as a home favorite.

Sure, some of that can be attributed to the injuries to James and Davis. The two have played in just 27 games together this year. But even with both James and Davis on the court, the Lakers are just 13-14 ATS. And with James and Davis available together in home games, the Lakers are 4-7 ATS.

On the other hand, the Lakers have been a strong under team all year. The strongest, in fact, at 43-28-1. With James and Davis on the court, that trend continues with 17 of those 27 games going under the total.

The total for Wednesday night’s game currently sits at 219.5.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) and forward LeBron James (23) during a timeout in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) and forward LeBron James (23) during a timeout in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

Warriors are on a hot streak, but have done most damage at home

The Warriors enter Wednesday night’s game on a six-game winning streak. The Warriors have won 15 of their last 20 games and are 14-6 ATS over that span. Most of that damage, though, has been done at home. During that 20-game stretch, the Warriors are a sizzling 9-2 at home and a more middle-of-the-road 5-4 on the road.

For the season as a whole, the splits are much more drastic. The Warriors are 23-13 ATS at home and just 14-22 ATS on the road. As a road underdog, the Warriors are 7-16 ATS, including a 4-11 ATS mark over their last 15 as a road dog.

In the last 15 games where the Warriors were underdogs on the road, the under is 11-4. With the defensive intensity picking up, perhaps the under could be a wise play.

Spurs are the best road ATS team in the NBA

No team has covered the spread at a higher rate on the road in the NBA this season than the San Antonio Spurs.

Entering Wednesday night’s play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs have a 23-12-1 record against the spread as a road team. The Spurs have performed well for bettors as a road underdog, too, going 14-8-1.

The Spurs are currently 3.5-point underdogs to the Grizzlies at BetMGM.

By comparison, the Grizzlies are 20-16 ATS at home with a 12-11 ATS mark as a home favorite. The Grizzlies went 42-30 ATS during the regular season, the third-best mark in the NBA. Only the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns were better ATS than Memphis during the 2021 season.

Wizards are hottest ATS team in NBA playoffs

The Washington Wizards played really well down the stretch to earn a spot in the play-in tournament.

The Wizards are 15-5 straight up and 15-4-1 against the spread over their last 20 games. That’s the best ATS mark of any playoff team over the last 20 games of the regular season (just a touch better than the New York Knicks, who went 15-5 ATS). That stretch gave the Wizards a 41-30-1 ATS mark for the season, the fourth-best in the NBA.

The Wizards are currently 2.5-point underdogs on the road against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. The Wizards are 22-13-1 ATS on the road with a strong 17-11 ATS mark as a road underdog. Over the Wizards’ last 20 games as a road underdog, they have covered the spread 14 times.

Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook dribbles the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook dribbles the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Pacers are the strongest over team in the NBA

The first of the four play-in matchups will be played Tuesday when the Indiana Pacers host the Charlotte Hornets. The Pacers are currently a 3-point favorite at BetMGM with the total set at 227.5.

The Pacers have gone over the total more than any team in the NBA — a 44-27-1 mark for the regular season. That includes a 14-6 mark for the over during the Pacers’ last 20 games.

The Hornets, meanwhile, have skewed more toward the under — 40-31-1 to be exact. The over-under splits are pretty dramatic for the Hornets, however. The under is 24-11-1 during Charlotte’s home games, but their road games are actually 20-16 in favor of the over.

Don’t be surprised if we see a lot of points in this one.

What about from a point-spread perspective? The Pacers have really struggled as a home favorite (6-14 ATS) while the Hornets have been quite bad as a road underdog (11-17 ATS). Something’s got to give here, obviously.

If recent trends are any indication, you may want to side with Indiana. The Pacers have covered three of their last five games as a home favorite while the Hornets are 3-11 ATS as a road underdog since March 1.

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