The frequency of blowouts in the NBA is hitting an all time high as of late. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
- In April, 57.4 percent of NBA games have been covered by 10 or more points
- Adjusting NBA spreads has been a burden for oddsmakers this season due to injuries, last-minute scratches and void of information
- How can gamblers benefit from lopsided games trend? The data in the article below can provide some guidance
There is a new point-differential trend in the NBA that our readers need to know about. The spread is missing by at least 10 points nearly 60 percent of the time in April.
Final results bearing no resemblance to the pre-game line are highlighted below.
NBA Spreads vs Blowout Final Scores in April
|Date||Game||Odds at Tipoff||Final Score||Deviation From Line|
|April 6||Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers||Celtics -7 1/2||Cleveland 117, Celtics 110||Cavaliers Cover by 14 1/2|
|April 5||Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings||Kings -8||Cleveland 125, Sacramento 101||Cavaliers Cover by 32|
|April 5||Detroit Pistons at Oklahoma City Thunder||Pistons -3||Detroit 132, Oklahoma City 108||Pistons Cover by 21|
|April 4||Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics||Celtics -9.5||Boston 116, Charlotte 86||Celtics Cover by 20.5|
|April 4||Memphis Grizzlies at Philadelphia 76ers||76ers -3.5||Memphis 116, Philadelphia 100||Grizzlies Cover by 19.5|
|April 3||New York Knicks at Detroit Pistons||Knicks -3.5||Knicks 125, Pistons 81||Knicks Cover by 41.5|
|April 3||Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz||Jazz -17||Jazz 137, Magic 91||Jazz Cover by 31|
|April 3||Oklahoma City at Portland||Blazers -12.5||Blazers 133, Thunder 85||Blazers Cover by 35.5|
|April 2||Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors||Raptors -5.5||Raptors 130, Warriors 77||Raptors Cover by 47.5|
|April 2||Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings||Kings -5.5||Lakers 115, Kings 94||Lakers Cover by 25.5|
|April 1||Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons||Wizards -1||Pistons 120, Wizards 91||Pistons Cover by 30|
|April 1||Charlotte Hornets at Brooklyn Nets||Nets -2.5||Nets 111, Hornets 89||Nets Cover by 19.5|
Have Spreads Been More Inaccurate This Season vs Others?
That data is impossible for the public to find, although it does exist.
“The sportsbooks we work with are having a difficult and unprecedented time establishing NBA lines on a daily basis,” said Scott Cooley, an odds consultant at Cool Media PR San Antonio. “This pandemic has created odds chaos, and the unknown is exacerbated in the NBA with very little accountability from the league and its vehicles of reporting injuries and inactives.”
But at the end of the day, the lines managers make a living adjusting on the fly by anticipating reaction and being armed with advanced algorithms and models.
— Ariel Epstein (@ArielEpstein) April 5, 2021
“The books and sharp bettors don’t exactly make that information public knowledge,” Cooley said.
So the trick for gamblers is trying to find the likely blowout games before tipoff. As shown in the table above, these games this month have often involved some of the league’s worst teams. Detroit is last in the East (16-35), two games behind a horrid Orlando Magic team that traded its three best players at last month’s trade deadline.
Yet the Pistons beat the Thunder by 24 points Monday night. How can Oklahoma City (20-30, 13th in the West) be that bad?
“Oklahoma City’s power rating is now worse than the tanking Sixers,” said Jeff Sherman of LV Sportsbook, which for years has been the gold standard of U.S. oddsmakers in terms of setting lines.
“It hasn’t been hard to set any of the lines, but it is very challenging to keep up with all the new players, who is and isn’t playing, and adjust the lines,” Sherman said.
The Thunder, Magic, Rockets and Pistons are going through the motions in various stages of tear downs and rebuilds. Oklahoma City has even told its’s highest-paid player, Al Horford (earning $27.5 million) to sit out the remainder of the season. The team is calling it “rest” – which is laughable.
How Frequently Are Teams Resting Players?
This is the trickiest thing to figure out, because basketball reporters are not privy to updated information.
Under the NBA’s official pandemic media guidelines, media are not allowed anywhere near the players or coach. When last-minute scratches are happening, the information void can be acute. First word often comes an a team’s Twitter account.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is out (knee soreness) for tonight’s game against Golden State.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 7, 2021
Also, because the season has been reduced to 72 games and the postseason (including the play-in tournament) has been expanded from 16 teams to 20, winning regular-season games has been dis-incentivized.
Breaking Down the Data
What we can do is look at the numbers and establish patterns. So far in April, there have been 47 games, and in 27 of them a team has covered by 10 or more points – 57.4 percent.
During the last week of March, there were 50 games and it happened 19 times – 38 percent. The prior week covering by 10+ points happened 48 percent of the time (27 of 56 games).
That sample size matters because it is post-trade deadline.
So if the first six days of April are indicative of a trend, we will see this every night in a majority of games.
Only a few teams are using the same lineup every night, and there is no chemistry during many games. NBA teams are not practicing because of strict COVID regulations, and time that usually would be spend practicing is now spent either going for COVID testing (three per day) or quarantining.
On the road, players are not permitted to leave their hotels or have guests in their rooms.
Sooo cancel the 5 o’clock test, after practice starts at 3:30 to accommodate the 5 o’clock test. Only to come back and test at 10pm. To lose an hour to Daylight savings time. Test by 9am. Play a game at 1pm… Great! Just another day in the life…. GENIUS!!!
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 14, 2021
What Does It Mean for Bettors Moving Forward?
Bettors should assume that some of the league’s best players are not going to appear in the second night of back-to-backs. Antetokounmpo has creaky knees that need to be saved for the playoffs, and Joel Embiid of the Sixers is just now coming back from a left knee bone bruise.
In Washington, the league’s leading scorer, Bradley Beal, has missed five consecutive games with a hip bruise, and news of whether he is going to play is often unavailable until shortly before tipoff.
Washington sat Beal and Rui Hachimura on Monday yet only lost by 2 against Toronto on a game-ending buzzer-beater by Gary Trent Jr. The line for that game opened at Toronto -4.5 and closed at Toronto -5.5. It was a meaningless game between two going-nowhere teams in an empty arena on a night when few people were watching because it was up against the Baylor-Gonzaga NCAA championship game.
But it was close. And close games are the norm only 42.6 percent of the time.
“There is more variance then I can ever remember, but the lines are still doing what they are supposed to do: Drawing equal action on both teams,” said Johnny Avello, head oddsmaker at DraftKings.
Chris Sheridan has been covering sports gambling since 2018 when PASPA was overturned. a veteran journalist with 30+ years experience covering sports for the Associated Press, ESPN, SheridanHoops and BasketballNews.com, he has been at the forefront of sports gambling coverage since it was legalized.