Streaks part of NBA Basketball

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It has been a common practice throughout the ages to take a long-standing concept or practice and rename it. Often this is done to enhance its significance or to give it an appearance of greater importance.

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The sports betting world is not immune to this practice and one such instance of “rebranding” involves a long standing tenet of sports betting that explains a certain type of betting behavior.

It has long been held that the public at large tends to base betting decisions on what was seen last. Professional bettors generally prefer being contrarian to the general public, doing so on the premise that the public’s behavior tends to inflate already inflated point spreads, thus, in the long run, offering “value” on the opposite side.

In this era of increased emphasis on analytics, this behavior of the general public is now known as “recency bias,” a term that’s achieved common usage as more information is available to betters concurrent with the rise in sports betting in the U.S. since the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling.

One way recency bias shows up in NBA wagering is reactions that occur when teams are on winning and losing streaks, a topic I touched upon a month or so ago.

It’s difficult to determine that a streak is about to begin and even more difficult to predict when such streak will end. But streaks will both affect point spreads in the short term and modify perceptions of teams’ longer term current season prospects. 

When a team is mired in a slump we hear the comment that “such and such team has been a fraud and can’t win the Title.” Or when a bad team has won several games in a row “that team has rounded into form.”

The NBA regular season is effectively 75 percent complete. Teams have played roughly 60 of their 82 games. Strengths and weaknesses of all teams are known. How teams fare with and without certain starters and key reserves are established.

Virtually every team will have at least modest winning and losing streaks over the course of a season. Half of the NBA’s 30 teams have had winning streaks of five games or more this season. Golden State has the NBA’s worst record, 13-48, yet four of their 13 wins came in succession.

More than half of the league has lost five or more straight games and all but one team have had losing streaks of at least three. The lone exception is Milwaukee. The Bucks have not lost back-to-back games all season with their greatest ‘slump’ occurring in the opening week when they dropped two of three.

In using streaks in my handicapping, I do not base wagers on them alone. I like to take a broader view of current form, looking at the past 10, 15 or 20 games to get a better sense of general momentum. 

I’m big on situational handicapping but also rely on support from the numbers. I do not blindly bet on or against streaks. But it’s obvious that when I do bet on a game in which a streak is present the appearance and effect is that I am doing just that.

The broader point is that we each have our own style of handicapping and at times it appears we are on the value and at other times against it.

But the term “value” is subject to interpretation and I’ll have more on that concept next week.

Friday

Heat at Pelicans: Entering Tuesday’s play New Orleans was tied for the ninth seed, just 3.5 games behind eighth seeded Memphis with 20 games to play. Miami was seeded fourth in the East but just two games ahead of the Pacers and 76ers. 

Miami routed New Orleans 109-94 in their previous meeting but that was back in mid-November, well before rookie Zion Williamson had his NBA debut in January. He’s been impressive in his brief 15-game career, averaging 24.1 points, 6.8 boards and 2.1 assists per game while averaging 29 minutes. 

The Pelicans are 9-7 SU since his debut that includes a win for which he was rested. For the season, New Orleans is just 12-18 at home, barely better than Miami’s 13-18 road record.

Opposite momentum for the teams dates back to late December. Over their last 30 games New Orleans is a solid 19-11 SU whereas Miami is just 16-14. And the Heat are just 1-6 both SU and ATS in their last six road games. PELICANS

Saturday

Hawks at Grizzlies: This is a quick rematch after these teams played in Atlanta on Monday. Despite a record 11 games worse than the Grizzlies, Atlanta opened and was bet up from a 2 to a 2.5 point home favorite. Leading virtually wire to wire that included outscoring the Hawks 75-39 in the second half, Memphis pulled the minor upset in a major way, winning 127-88. 

Sophomore scoring sensation Trae Young, averaging 29.6 points per game for the Hawks, was held to just 19 points, shooting just 5 for 17. That broke a streak of 11 straight games in which he scored at least 22 points, averaging 33.0 games over that stretch. 

At 19-44 on the season the Hawks have little to play for other than to put forth sustained efforts when situations warrant. Seeking to avenge a 39-point home loss would qualify. Dating back to mid-January, Atlanta has been a respectable 11-12 SU in its last 23 games and should be a decent underdog here. HAWKS

Sunday

Lakers at Clippers: Many experts believe these teams will meet in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers have been the top seed since virtually the start of the season and the Clippers have held the second or third seed for much of the season. 

In their prior meetings the Clippers won by 5 and 10 points, the latter on Christmas Day. The Lakers’ duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis played in both games, scoring a combined 43 and 47 points. For the Clippers Kawhi Leonard scored 30 and 35 points while Paul George scored 17 points in the Christmas game after missing the first meeting due to injury. 

Both games were decided in the final 12 minutes after each was tied after three quarters. The Lakers are 35-18 SU in fourth quarters this season with six ties. The Clippers are just 30-25 with five ties. LAKERS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 30-23-1 

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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