NBA zig zag? Not so far

Apr 25, 2009 8:07 PM
by Mark Mayer | Long time GamingToday columnist and numbers cruncher Andy Iskoe devoted much of his piece last week to the zig zag theory. You hear about zig zag during the playoffs each year and in fact, the theory of backing losing teams in the following game has posted a success rate above 56 percent according to figures from The Gold Sheet.

Well not this playoff season, at least through the opening round. The series that has most followed the zig zag is Dallas-San Antonio where the Mavs won the opener by 8, lost the second game by 21 and won the third game by 21. The zig zag also worked in the Atlanta-Miami series where the Heat bounced back from a 26-point loss to win Game 2 by 15.

As for the other six first-round series, zig zag has not lived up to past success. Cleveland has covered all three games against Detroit and Denver has covered its two games against New Orleans. The zig zig did not work in the Philadelphia-Orlando series from a point spread view with the 76ers covering all three games as underdogs. Same with the Houston-Portland series, where the underdog is 3-0 ATS.

The zig zag didn’t work in Game 3 of the Boston-Chicago series with the Bulls getting blown out at home. Utah is 2-1 ATS against the Lakers with the zig zag not working in Game 2.

"It’s very true that the zig zag is not working as well so far," said Mark Dufty, race and sports director at Jerry’s Nugget. "It used to be almost automatic, certainly a very strong play. The premise is that all good teams once they play each other make the coaching adjustments for the next game. Thus oddsmakers would over-compensate for impressive performances."

The power of the zig zag is emphasized in tonight’s Game 4 of the Lakers-Jazz series where Los Angeles off a loss at Utah went up from a 2½-point chalk in Game 3 to a 4½-point road favorite. Another failing trend is the number of first round games not going under the total. Through 22 games, the over has a 14-8 edge.

"That’s really been the biggest surprise to me," Dufty said. "Invariably first round games fly under the total as the defensive intensity picks up. Now the oddsmakers are bumping up the totals so it wouldn’t surprised me to see things even out."

There also has been no definitive trend in betting home favorites. Through Friday night’s action, home favorites were 9-11 against the number.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Mark Mayer