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As we go to press on Monday, each of the opening round playoff series has seen one game played.

On Saturday, form held in three of the four games as Chicago, Miami and Dallas each won on their home courts but struggled to pull out victories in the waning minutes.

Chicago and Miami failed to cover double digit point spreads while Dallas got a late cover as a shorter five-point favorite. Portland seemed like the right side for most of the second half after overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit.

Saturday’s shocker came in Orlando where the Magic trailed virtually the entire game against Atlanta, much of the second half by double digits, in a 103-93 loss. What makes the loss a shock is Orlando’s Dwight Howard – the best player on the court and considered by most one of the top five players in the NBA – had an outstanding game.

Howard scored 46 points and pulled down 19 boards in the loss. Teammate Jameer Nelson added 27 points, but the other three starters and the bench combined for just 20 points.

The upsets continued on Sunday when Memphis won its first playoff game in franchise history. The former inept Vancouver Grizzlies led for a good part of the game in San Antonio before surrendering the lead in the final few minutes, only to rally and hold off a missed three-point shot at the buzzer in a 101-98 win.

After losing the first two meetings in the regular season Memphis has now won three in a row against the Spurs, who were without reliable veteran Manu Ginobili in the opener. He is expected back Wednesday.

That set the stage for the biggest tree in the NBA forest to fall just a few hours later as the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers trailed for much of their home game against New Orleans, losing 109-100. The Lakers were huge 10½ point favorites to defeat the Hornets for the fifth time this season after winning all four regular season matchups.

Upset Sunday almost continued as Boston needed a second half rally and three-point shot from veteran Ray Allen to get past New York 87-75 and Oklahoma City, after trailing for much of the contest, rallied to defeat Denver.

Thus the home team won five of eight opening games straight up but were a ghastly 1-7 ATS. There was a bit more balance in the totals results, which showed five games going OVER and three staying UNDER.

Devotees of the “zig zag” theory espoused last week would therefore play Indiana, Philadelphia, Orlando and New York in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference series and Portland, San Antonio, Denver and the Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference series.

Keep in mind that the “zig zag” theory has not been as potent in recent seasons as it had been a decade or so ago. But fundamentally it represents a valid start from which to begin handicapping.

See Teddy Covers article on the Zig-Zag Theory

After all, the loser of a game is more likely to make adjustments or “bring a little extra” to the next game in an effort to avoid back-to-back losses in a series that marks the end of the season for one of the teams.

Remember, the “zig zag” theory calls for playing on the straight up loser – not the ATS loser – in the next game of a series following the opener.

In looking at how the eight series may ultimately wind up, form is still likely to hold up in the East where there was a sizeable gap between the top four seeds and the teams seeded fifth through eighth.

The lone opening game upset had fifth seeded Atlanta win at fourth seeded Orlando. The Magic should come back and ultimately defeat the Hawks although Atlanta’s win was their fourth over Orlando in five games this season. Last season’s four-game sweep by the Magic over the Hawks – by an average of 25 points per game – is a long, long time ago.

Despite losing their first games at home both San Antonio and the Lakers should rebound and advance to the second round. Covering inflated point spreads in upcoming games may be a different matter however.

Each is favored in Game 2 and would be the play according to the “zig zag” theory as noted above. If the Lakers and Spurs do indeed win and cover in their respective Game 2’s we might be able to conclude all is back to normal. But should either struggle and perhaps even be upset, there would be cause to believe either the Hornets or Grizzlies could pull off the shocking upsets as either or both would head home up 2-0.

Based on what we witnessed in the opening games of the other two Western series both the Dallas/Portland and Oklahoma City/Denver series could be drawn out, six or seven game series.

Each opener was tight throughout, and prior to the start of each series many observers predicted these would be the most likely series to produce upsets.

Should either team lose Game 2 then that team would be an excellent play back home in Game 3, although both Denver and Portland would likely be favored by a couple of buckets.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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