How to Bet the NBA Playoffs

One of the top tournaments in professional sports is the NBA playoffs. Usually starting in mid-April and running through mid-June, the NBA playoffs have 20 teams compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Here is a breakdown of all the different bets you can find throughout the NBA playoffs.

In the new format, four teams in each Conference compete in a play-in tournament, where the seventh seed plays the eighth seed and the nine plays against the ten. The winner of the seven vs eight matchup makes the playoffs as the seventh seed, while the loser plays the winner of nine vs ten for the eighth and final seed in the round of 16. After that teams play in a best-of-seven series through the NBA Finals.

Related: Betting on March Madness

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Single-game NBA Playoff bets

There are several ways to bet on an NBA Playoff game. This includes point spreads, totals, moneylines, parlays, and props. Here are some details on how to make these types of basketball wagers

Game lines, including point spreads, totals, and moneylines

One of the simplest ways to bet on single games in the NBA Playoffs is through game lines. You can bet money line, spread, or total on the game lines. An example is if the Celtics are listed at -9 ½ against the spread, -420 against the money line, and the total is set at over/ under 235 ½. 

The moneyline is based on which team will win the game outright. Usually, these have one favored team and an underdog. In the example, Boston is -420, which means a $420 bet wins $100 if the Celtics are the winner.

The spread is a way to balance out the game more. An underdog gets a certain amount of points to add to their final score. The underdog would win the spread bet if that number is higher than the favorite’s final score. In the example, Boston’s opponent would gain +9 ½ points to their number of points scored in the game.

The over/ under is the total amount of points scored between the two teams. If the final score in the example was 120-115, the under would hit because it would fall just short of 235 ½ points.

Points spreads, totals, and moneylines are available for the entire game, individual periods, or halves. These types of wagers are also accepted during the game.

NBA playoff game props

There are many game props offered on single games throughout the NBA playoffs. There are alternate spreads and totals for the game. You can bet the over/ under on each individual team’s final point total. There are also margin prop bets, which include picking a certain team to win the game between a certain margin of points. These are usually 5 or 10-point margin totals.

Another popular game prop is the “Race To” prop. These bets are wagers based on which team will get to a certain point total first. This can be as low as the first team to five points and can go as high as the first team to 50 points. Watching out for teams that tend to have fast starts is a good way to attack these prop bets.

Throughout the NBA playoffs, you can also bet on individual quarters. These bets include spread, total and outright winner for each quarter. There are margin bets and “Race To” props as well for each quarter. You can also bet on whether there will be 2 or more 3-pointers made in the first three minutes of the game or each quarter.

Another option for game props is spreads and totals pre-parlayed together. These include which team will cover the spread and whether the over/ under will hit in the game. Like a regular parlay though, both options need to be correct for it to payout.

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Player props

There are lots of great player prop options throughout the NBA playoffs as well. You can bet totals on individual players’ points, rebounds, assists and three-pointers made. Another way to bet on individual stats is betting if a player will get over a certain total. For points, these usually increase in increments of five. Rebounds and assists increase by increments of two. Three-pointers made increase by one.

There are also bets on which player will be the highest scorer in the game for both teams. Watching who has been hot for different teams in the postseason is a good way to find some value in these bets. You can also find who will lead the game in rebounds and assists. One type of scoring prop is which player will get the first basket and how he will score it.

Another way to bet on props is player combos. These are bets on whether a player will get over a certain total with the combination of two stats. These usually include points + assists, points + rebounds, rebounds + assists, and points + rebounds + assists. There are also bets on whether a player will get a double-double or a triple-double.

Finally, in the bigger postseason games, you can bet on lesser-watched stats like steals, blocks, and turnovers. In the playoffs, defensive play tends to ramp up as the games become more meaningful. This leads to more of these defensive stats being recorded and allows for bettors to wager on totals of these stats.

Same game parlays for the NBA playoffs

A popular way to bet on individual games is through same-game parlays. These bets are parlays bet solely through individual games. Most of the popular sportsbooks have a same game parlay tab available when clicking on the game. You can find game lines, game props, and player props that you can add to the parlay.

One thing to watch out for when betting on same-game parlays is promotions. Popular sportsbooks offer loss rebate same-game parlays or odd boosts on the bigger games. Taking advantage of these promotions makes same game parlay bets even more valuable.

Parlays are also available on multiple games. These types of parlays are usually built within the sportsbook app by the player. Live casinos may have NBA parlay cards on the counter. 

Live and in-play bets

Another way to bet on the NBA playoffs is through live bets, sometimes referred to as in-play or microbetting. Live bets are wagers placed while the game is going on. These usually offer updated game lines, game props, and player props depending on what has happened leading up to the placement of the bet. Usually, you lose some value on the odds betting live though.

NBA futures bets

One way to bet on the NBA without betting on individual games is through futures bets. These include betting on which team will win the NBA Finals, which team or teams will make the NBA Finals, and which team or teams will make the conference finals. You can also bet on which player will win the NBA Finals MVP award.

Another way to bet on futures in the NBA is by betting on how different series will finish. You can bet simply which team will move on in a series or the exact way a series finishes. Watching for who has the home-court advantage and how the two teams competed in the regular season can help you with series bets.

NBA teasers

Teasers work somewhat like parlays. There are multiple teams on a ticket. The options include point spreads and totals. If one leg of a teaser loses, the entire ticket is lost. If there is a push, the teaser drops that leg and is paid or loses based on it other outcomes.

NBA teasers are usually 4.5, 5, and 5.5 points. When a player bets a teaser on the NBA, the number of points it includes is added in the player’s favor. 

For example, if you bet a three-team five-point NBA teaser, your picks would all get five points reduced from its handicap if a favorite, and added to its points if an underdog. For totals, a five-point over teaser would lower the points needed to win by five. An under in a teaser would add five points to the total.

An NBA playoff and regular season teaser may combine point spreads and totals. These can be on the same game or separate ones. A basketball teaser must be at least two teams. It can’t be combined with football teasers. 

Tips for betting on NBA playoffs

If you are ready to bet on the NBA playoffs, here are some tips to increase your chances of winning. Remember that the most important thing about betting on basketball is to do it responsibly. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. Here are more responsible gambling tips

Avoid bottom seeds

When making futures bets in the first round, avoid the 5-8 seed. Only one team has ever won the NBA Finals as a five-seed or below. The last time a 1-3 seed was eliminated in the first round was in the 2018 playoffs. A 1-2 seed has not been eliminated in the first round since 2012.

Home court is a real advantage

When making single-game bets in the NBA playoffs, betting on the home team can be a winning formula. Over 60% of the time in the NBA playoffs, the home team wins the game. This becomes even more true later in the postseason as some of the weaker teams get eliminated. 

Bet on teams with all-star and MVP talent

Most teams that win the NBA Finals, have multiple all-stars and former and/ or current MVP finalists. To win in the NBA, you need a couple of superstar players that can take over the game in big moments. Watching for teams who have those caliber players is a good way to gauge which teams are contenders and which are pretenders.