Bettors will generally overlook betting totals in sports, but in the NBA it’s important to consider betting totals. In this article I’m going to show everyone how to handicap NBA totals. Before we get into handicapping basketball totals we’re going to quickly walk you through what an NBA total bet is and how these types of bets work.
What is a NBA Totals Bet?
• Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Over 201.5 -104 / Under 201.5 -106
Betting on NBA totals is so easy anyone can do it. Looking at the example above we can see the game total has been set at 201.5 points in the Nuggets vs. Lakers game. Your job if you want to bet on this total is to determine whether the game will have more than 201.5 points scored or less than 201.5 points scored.
The two numbers at the end of the totals are the betting odds. Let’s say you think both teams will put up lots of points and you want to bet the over. The odds on the over are -104, which equates to having to wager $104 to win $100. The sportsbook actually thinks the under is slightly more likely to hit and you’d need to bet $106 to win $100.
The best sportsbooks to bet on NBA totals offer $.10 reduced juice lines (-105/-105). The standard juice for NBA totals is $.20, but when there are bookmakers offering $.10 totals lines you need to bet with them. The only time you may consider betting into a higher priced line is if you’re getting extra points in your favour, which we’ll explain a bit more in detail later in the guide.
Handicapping NBA Totals
If I asked 100 bettors how to handicap NBA totals the majority of bettors would tell me to look at how many points both teams score and how many points both teams allow on average. This is very basic handicapping and if this is all you look at when you handicap NBA over/under bets you’re going to find that you’re losing more often than not.
Tracking the PPG scored and allowed by a team is a stat easily found online and should be tracked by you. However, you also need to track league averages for points scored and points allowed. The reason you need to track league averages is so that you can compare each team’s stats with the league average to come up with a point differential.
Too many handicappers rely on looking at team stats without comparing those stats to the league average. Once you’ve looked at the PPG scored and allowed by each team in a game and compared those to the league average you should have a good idea of what the total should be for that game without weighing in any other factors.
In order to increase the chances of predicting the total correctly in the NBA there are a few other pertinent statistics that you’ll need to track throughout the season. The 1st stat you need to track is pace, which is simply the number of possessions a team averages per game. Certain sites track this stat already, but if you want the formula to input into your own database it’s below.
• Pace Formula = Field Goal Attempts – Offensive Rebounds + Turnovers + 0.4 x Free Throws Attempted
Knowing the pace of NBA teams is important if you want to bet on NBA totals. Make sure you track every team so that you also have the league average in pace for comparative purposes. Apart from the pace statistic you also need to track the offensive and defensive efficiency of NBA teams.
Offensive efficiency will tell bettors how many points a team averages per 100 possessions while defensive efficiency will tell you how many points a team allows per 100 possessions. Understanding a team’s offensive efficiency average and the team’s average pace will go a long way in telling you how many points should be expected to be scored in a game.
• Offensive Efficiency = 100 x (Points Scored) / (Possessions)
• Defensive Efficiency = 100 x (Points Allowed) / (Possessions)
Tips for Betting NBA Totals
The handicapping information above will help NBA totals bettors create their own lines. Creating your own lines and comparing them to the bookies line is the only way to bet on totals over the long-run. I also want to share some tips with you below that you must consider every time you’re thinking about betting on an NBA total.
Some of the other factors you need to think about when handicapping NBA totals include injuries, coach’s tactics, recent form, motivation, line-up changes and odds. We also stress how important it is to wager on NBA totals with reduced juice since you’ll be able to win a smaller percent of your bets and still remain profitable.
Injuries play a huge role in NBA totals and the faster you know about injuries the better. Following injury news can also be very profitable if you take certain risks. If Derrick Rose is probable, but you have good information that he won’t be playing it’d be a good idea to bet the under on the game total before line-ups are announced. Once the line-ups are announced and Rose isn’t listed the bookies will immediately adjust the total by a few points, which equates to you losing any value on the line.
Recent form and motivation can also play a huge role in totals. If a team has thrown in the towel they may not be playing defence and therefore the over may be worth a look. Unmotivated teams tend to struggle on defence and not as much on offence because of the fact players love to put up points, but don’t like playing defence.
You should also follow the coach’s tactics in the NBA if you’re betting totals regularly. Coaches will sit players a lot in the NBA to rest against weaker opponents and they’ll also employ different game plans against different teams. You can learn a lot about how teams play against each other by looking at recent history (Past 1-3 Years). You can see how many possessions each team average against each other and the efficiency of each team.
I also like looking at line-up chemistry when handicapping NBA totals. There are always different line-ups on the floor in the NBA and some line-ups perform well together while others perform poorly. If a player is injured and the player filling in doesn’t have chemistry with the other players you’ll often see the team underachieve based on their season averages and this is very important to know if you bet on totals.