Don't assume that betting on the NBA playoffs is the same as betting on the regular season. Though true in some ways, there are some significant ways in which the playoffs are different, and those differences are particularly significant for bettors. Here are the six that can influence how you handicap in the post season:
It probably goes without saying, but it's too big of a factor not to mention. NBA teams play each other seven times in a row in the playoffs. Playing an opponent several times in a row allows teams to learn the tendencies and preferences of their opponent, spotting the weaknesses and identifying the strengths.
As a result, strategic changes aren't as effective as they are during the regular season. Skill takes more of precedence and will usually be the deciding factor in a playoff series.
When teams play several times in a row there is also typically an increase in tension between players, and the temperature of the games can rise. That hard foul or blocked shot may be forgotten once the same two teams face off again during the season, but in the playoffs any bad blood between teams is rekindled every other night, over 10-12 days. Teams that are more disciplined and self-controlled are going to have a big advantage over teams that let their emotions get away from them.
Game management, including bench, on court and clock, is more important than normal, so coaches are called upon to use all of their skills, both between games, and in the course of games.
A coach has to be a manager, a motivator, and a play-caller all at once over an entire series. No matter how much talent a team has on the court, the shortcomings of a coach can be a deciding factor when all is said and done.
Travel can be brutal in the NBA. The schedule makers favor back-to-back games on the road, so teams can easily be worn down at the end of road trips. The longest road trip a team can be subjected to in the NBA playoffs is three games, and the only way they have to travel between road games is if they clinch one series and then start the next one right away on the road, which happens very rarely. The travel is much more manageable in the playoffs, so its impact from a betting standpoint is far less than in the regular season.
Whenever the public action increases, like it does during the NBA Playoffs, bettors need to be more concerned than usual about what tendencies or biases the public might have, and what effect that has on how the lines are set and how they move.
If you aren't very aware of public tendencies then you can make bets that don't have nearly as much value as they initially seem to. Pay attention to this when handicapping the playoffs.
At times during the regular season, NBA teams have a tendency to not play at full intensity when they don't have to. It can be very frustrating to see an elite team lay an egg against a serious contender because the game doesn't matter significantly in the standings. It would be fine for bettors if they were predictably inconsistent, but that's not always the case.
In the playoffs, though, every game matters. Unless basketball teams have real problems they shift their intensity to a new level, and they play as hard as they can every game. As a handicapper, you need to be better at evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of teams come playoff time. Effectively determining their comparative strength is key to predicting the winner.
One of the best parts of regular season NBA betting is that there are real and significant mismatches. There are some extremely good NBA teams and some that are really, really bad. Teams that make the playoffs are good. Apart from the occasional first round mismatch, the majority of playoff series will feature teams capable of winning any game or a series if everything goes their way. As a handicapper, you have to look well past the matchup.
Successfully handicapping the NBA playoffs requires that you be familiar with the teams, their coaching styles, and their players' abilities. Factor in the differences listed above and you'll be well on your way to breaking the book, or at least bending them a bit.