Don't overreact to blowouts in NBA Playoffs
May 16, 2017 3:04 AM
by Jim Feist
The NBA playoffs are in full swing, which means overall the better teams are battling each other. This is different from the regular season when many nights great teams are playing bad ones, and vice versa! One thing astute sports bettors should pay very careful attention to is blowouts.
Blowout games are less expected this time of the year, but they still happen as one team can have a bad game on any night. The Celtics began the playoffs losing the first two games at home, including a 111-97 embarrassment to Chicago, getting booed off the parquet floor (and who can blame the fans?). But they made some key adjustments, went small-ball and took the next on the road to climb back into it.
Oddsmakers are anticipating that the majority of teams want to be here and will play all out for 48 minutes keeping things relatively close. Teams that have some talent or star players are more likely to make the playoffs, which also makes closer, more competitive games likely. Even a team like the Indiana Pacers came into the playoffs with a star scorer in Paul George, while the Chicago Bulls were a .500 team in the regular season but had a terrific veteran backcourt with Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo.
Still, one-sided games can happen for a variety of reasons. Toronto opened the playoffs healthy and talented, but got routed at home by Milwaukee, 97-83 as a favorite, then again in Game 3, 104-77. But each time they bounced back with a victory, showcasing how you can’t read too much into one bad performance.
A few years ago the defending champion Spurs positively trashed the Kings in Game 1, 122-88. The stats on the game were frightening, with San Antonio shooting 57% and holding the Kings to 39%, while winning the battle of the boards 51-32.
This blowout, combined with a key suspension, helped push the betting line from 8 to 12 for the next game. However, a funny thing happened in Game 2 – the Kings showed up. They showed up with a vengeance, too, taking the Spurs to overtime before a wild 128-119 loss, though the angry dog still covered. Public perception can be such that many were thinking the Spurs were going to destroy the Kings even worse in Game 2.
A year ago the Spurs eviscerated Oklahoma City, 124-92, in Game 1. Series over? Not by a long shot, with the underdog Thunder winning the next game as a road dog, 98-97. OKC ended up winning the series in six games.
The point is, don’t easily dismiss teams that get blown out. If they have talent, are well coached, or have strong leadership, they can bounce back and look like a very different team the next game. Another factor to consider is defense. Many teams that make the postseason know how to play good defense, and in a blowout loss, perhaps a team simply had a bad defensive game. Or, the opponent was doing something on the court they couldn’t adjust to. Though after watching game films, they make adjustments, which is why they can look like a very different team.
And the playoffs are far different from the regular season, with two teams facing each other over and over again, making adjustments and revenge spots even more acute. You may recall the NBA Finals a year ago, when the Pistons destroyed the Spurs 102-71 in Game 4. The next game, the Spurs were a +3.5 dog, yet got their revenge in a 96-95 straight up win.
Another season when the playoffs opened the Celtics danced all over the Pacers in a 102-82 Game 1 rout. Boston players made foolish comments after the game about how they were already thinking about advancing to the next round! In Game 2, a very different Indiana team showed up in an 82-79 win as a road underdog.
Don’t focus too much on the last game, as every dog can have his day, for various reasons, in the NBA playoffs.