Zig zag works

Apr 24, 2007 6:17 AM

The NBA Playoffs are underway and to say there were some shockers in the opening games would be an understatement.

Two of the highly touted teams in the West, top seeded Dallas and third seeded San Antonio, both lost on their home courts. And neither loss came in the waning moments or on a buzzer beater. In both Golden State’s win over Dallas and Denver’s victory over San Antonio, both the Warriors and Nuggets controlled the games throughout the second half.

The week started with all series standing at 1-0. The third road team to win its opening game was New Jersey, which triumphed at Toronto. Otherwise form held for Detroit, Phoenix, Cleveland, Chicago and Houston, all of whom won opening games at home.

Successful handicapping relies on being selective. Not every game is playable. There are many theories that have been used in building bankrolls during the playoffs.

One advantage of betting the playoffs versus the regular season is the genuine effort. Even the good teams are prone to taking nights off during regular season to ease the grind of the long schedule. But each game in the playoffs is important in trying to win a best of seven series.

One strategy that requires extreme selectivity is to set a goal to earn one unit of profit in each series. That goal is attained by picking the right situation to make a play, often once the series is several games old. With 15 series played en route to the NBA Title this strategy, while not always executed perfectly, can often provide 10 or more units of profit over the two months of the playoffs.

Another theory is the zig zag, popularized over the years by the Gold Sheet. This theory holds that you play the straight up loser of a playoff game in its next game. In other words, the loser of Game 1 should rebound to over the spread in Game 2. Then the loser of Game 2 should cover in Game 3 and so on as the first round continues.

Again, the key to successfully using this strategy is being selective. Determining the team to play is easy — the SU loser of the previous game. But determining when to play is vital. Situations and matchups do not always allow for indiscriminant use of the zig zag theory.

Here’s a brief series by series analysis prior to the playing of Game 2.

NOTE: These are estimated GamingToday lines.

Detroit -2½ at Orlando: East top seed Detroit won, but failed to cover in its 100-92 win over the Magic on Saturday. The Pistons pretty much had the game in hand, leading by low double digits for much of the second half. That result made for a no-play in Game 2, but sets up a nice play on the loser for Game 3. That would be a play on Orlando if down 0-2 in the series or a play on Detroit if the series stands 1-1 and the Pistons seeking to regain home court advantage.

Cleveland -7 at Washington: The Wizards appears overmatched against the Cavaliers as the absence of injured Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler seem too much to overcome. There are reports that Butler might return for Game 3, but his effectiveness would be suspect at best. The Cavs could sweep this series in 4. If they are up 2-0 when the series shifts to Washington, this could be a series in which the zig zag theory is not applicable. Cleveland is clearly better and Washington would not be playable unless getting 6 points at home in Game 3, down 0-2.

Toronto +3 at New Jersey: This is a very intriguing series. Although Toronto enjoyed the far better regular season, New Jersey has a huge edge in playoff experience. That was a factor which was largely responsible for the Game 1 upset win in Toronto. A big effort from Toronto may be expected in Game 2, lest an 0-2 situation heading to New Jersey. If the series hits the Meadowlands tied 1-1, then New Jersey would be the play. The loser then would be the play in Game 4.

Chicago +3 at Miami: The 4 vs 5 matchup figures to be the most competitive of the opening round series. It has all the markings of going the full 7. The Bulls had a Game 1 win that was easier than the final 5-point margin would suggest. Miami was in early foul trouble, but should be a good play in Game 2. If the series moves to Miami at 1-1, the Bulls are the play in Game 3. Otherwise, Miami would be very attractive down 0-2 with the loser of Game 3 the play in Game 4.

Dallas -3½ vs. Golden St: After being shocked in Game 1, Dallas should come back and win Game 2. However, the Mavs will be too high priced to play. Note that Golden State has now won all four meetings against Dallas this season. If, as expected, the series heads West tied 1-1, the Warriors will be playable in Game 3 as a small home underdog. Should the unthinkable happen and Golden State be up 3-0 and looking for the sweep, the Warriors would be the play to pull the monumental upset in Game 4. Otherwise, the Game 3 loser becomes the play in Game 4.

Phoenix -3 at LA Lakers: All five meetings between the teams have now been decided by single digits. Phoenix is a 9-point favorite in Game 2. With the Suns rallying to win Game 1, the Lakers are playable in Game 2. Regardless of that outcome, the Suns would be a nice play in Game 3 to either go up 2-1 or take a 3-0 lead. If down 2-1 headed to Game 4, the Lakers would be playable in that game as a small home underdog.

San Antonio PK at Denver: The Nuggets shocked the Spurs with their Game 1 upset and figure to be a tough out with the combo of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson keying the win. The Spurs should win Game 2 with the UNDER again being a solid play. Denver is playable in Game 3 back home whether up 2-0 or tied at 1. Game 3 also presents an opportunity for an OVER as Denver is more apt to have success forcing an uptempo pace at home rather than on the road.

Houston -2½ at Utah: This should be a low scoring series throughout. Houston has played the better basketball over the second half of the season, but Utah should be the play in Game 3 even if managing to win Game 2 in Houston to tie the series. Unless Houston is going for the sweep in Game 4, the loser of Game 3 would be the play looking to tie the series 2-2 heading back to Houston.

We’ll revisit these series and offer possible revisions depending on where they stand after the games of next weekend.