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NBA Handicapping: Oddsmakers and Bettors Adjust to Scoring


As our colleague Erin Rynning pointed out earlier this week, scoring and pace is way up in the NBA. Teams are averaging just over 6 points per game more than last season. Totals were going over well north of 65% prior to last night when bettors witnessed a bit of regression as eight of 11 games went under the total (3-7-1 O/U if you graded Indiana-San Antonio a push).

Last year, there were 1,312 NBA games including the postseason. The average total was 212.4; 52% of which went under. Of those games, 252 (19%) closed with a total of 220 or higher. Those games went over the total 57% of the time. Taking it a step further, only 31 of those 1,312 were lined 230 or higher with 59% of them going over.

Heading into Thursday night, there have been 62 games. Totals are 36-25-1 O/U (59%). The average total has been 221. Of those 62, exactly half closed 220 or higher (58% went over). Ten have been lined 230 or higher with the over/under 6-4.

The game of cat and mouse is now underway. Oddsmakers have obviously adjusted to the small sample size of results. Bettors meanwhile are tasked with identifying teams and games that are inflated. There have already been examples of oddsmakers adjusting totals based primarily on the league-wide increase in scoring and pace rather than the team(s). Utah played only 15 games last season with a total of 210 or higher. In fact, their highest total was 217. This year, the Jazz have already played three games lined higher than 210; two of which higher than last year’s peak of 217. Utah’s last two games closed 213.5 and 217.5, respectively. They both went under the total by a combined 66 points!

“I think guys are just getting more comfortable offensively in their games,” Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry said. “I think everyone is just expanding, with the centers shooting 3s. I think that just opens the floor up a lot more. A lot more shots are going up, a lot more freedom of movement. It makes it more of an exciting game.”

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