Streaks are tricky when betting basketball

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Last week the topic of streaks was introduced and the way approaching them from a handicapping and betting standpoint has changed over the past decade.

Much of the change has resulted from the way the NBA game has evolved in terms of personnel management. With so much money tied up in player contracts, more caution than ever is being exercised both in how injuries are handled regarding recovery time with the reluctance to hasten the time an injured player is cleared to return. 

Additionally, more coaches continue to adopt the concept of “load management,” giving players games off, often resting players in one of two games played on back-to-back nights or in the midst of a grueling stretch of road games.

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Over the years in many sports, including basketball and baseball, when a lengthy winning or losing streak ends, the result of the game that ends a streak often repeats itself in the team’s next game. That is, if a team wins seven straight games and then loses the eighth game that team will also lose the next game – game nine of the sequence.

I generally define an NBA winning streak as being meaningful once a team has won at least four straight games, at least one of which has come on the road or as a home underdog of more than three points. I consider a losing streak as significant when a team has lost at least four in a row, including at least one at home as a favorite of more than two points.

Once a streak is identified, I may play on such a team as the streak extends. But it would be due to factors other than the streak itself such as scheduling dynamics, recent series history or matchups.

Once that team’s streak ends (winning or losing) I will often look for that streak ending result to occur in the team’s next game, especially if that team is a losing team that’s just experienced a short spell of success.

Perhaps you could consider this to be akin to the “regression to the mean” concept that holds short-term form reversals inevitably revert to long-term established form. Often short-term success will create added short-term line value in playing against such teams when they finally lose.

And the reverse is true for winning teams that go through an inevitable slump. Once they shake that slump with a win they return to form and will often regain lost ground with a winning streak that exceeds the length of the losing streak.

The usual factors of injury, rest and scheduling still must be considered. But the handling of streaks can be viewed as a corollary to the simply stated “buy low, sell high” concept in the financial markets where, as well, it often pays handsomely to be a contrarian.

Friday

Heat at Thunder: Miami has been a totally different team on the road than at home. Through Monday the Heat are an NBA best 17-1 at home. On the road Miami is below .500 at 10-11. Oklahoma City is a more modest 13-7 at home and a break-even 10-10 on the road. 

Clearly playing better than expected, the Thunder have the NBA’s best point spread record, 27-13. Basic statistics illustrate both teams’ contrasts. The Heat are outscoring foes by 11.7 points per game at home but are -3.0 ppg on the road. OKC is +4.0 ppg at home, -0.4 ppg as visitors. 

OKC has fared very well in competitively lined games, going 15-5 SU, 16-4 ATS in games lined between -4 and +4, including eight straight wins and covers since December 20. THUNDER

Saturday

Bucks at Nets: At 35-6, Milwaukee has the best record in the NBA. The Bucks have also been modestly profitable at the betting windows, going 23-18 ATS. 

Brooklyn was 16-13 on December 8 but then lost seven straight (0-7 ATS) before ending the streak with a pair of wins over last weekend. Caris LeVert returned from an injury in the midst of the losing streak after missing 23 games. Kyrie Irving returned in Sunday’s win over Atlanta after missing 26 games. 

These teams meet for the first time this season. Brooklyn is rested after having played on Wednesday in Philadelphia whereas Milwaukee played at Boston on Thursday. 

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo should produce his average stats line of nearly 30 points, 13 rebounds and 5.5 assists. But the Nets should continue their bounce back with a fresh Irving and LeVert taking much of the burden off of Spencer Dinwiddie who carried much of the load while his teammates were sidelined. NETS 

Sunday

Pacers at Nuggets: Indiana has been a consistent team all season as they await the return of star Victor Oladipo, who’s been out nearly a full year after tearing a quad tendon in his right knee last January. His return is targeted for the end of this month. 

In his absence, the Pacers have played winning basketball over the first half of the season, standing 25-15 and seeded fifth in the East through Monday. T.J. Warren, Malcom Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis lead a balanced attack with each averaging 18 points per game. 

Denver has been one of the top teams in the West all season, currently tied with Utah for the second seed at 27-12. This is a tough spot for both teams as each plays on Monday. Indiana plays at Utah while Denver is at Minnesota. 

These teams met in Indiana on January 2 with the Nuggets getting a road win, 124-116. Brogdon was injured and missed that game, making his presence here a difference maker. PACERS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 22-14-2

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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