If you’ve been monitoring NBA point spreads lately, you’ve probably seen some surprises jump off the page. That’s because we’ve reached the point in the season when oddsmakers pay close attention to back-to-back spots on the schedule.
The Nets are in one of those Wednesday night. They host Memphis after visiting Boston on Tuesday. How big an adjustment should be made? Earlier in the season, the line may not have varied more than a point from expectations. Now, adjustments as high as two or three points are being made on a regular basis across the league.
Here are some reasons why back-to-backs impact the line more heavily in March and April.
Sustained fatigue: The wear and tear of a long season is taking its toll on teams. Many, particularly non-contenders, just don’t have the energy to bring intensity two nights in a row. That’s been reflected in results for years. After getting hurt by sharps, oddsmakers now plan in advance.
Tankapalooza: VSiN subscribers are aware of Gill Alexander’s annual foray into betting strategies on his weekday show “A Numbers Game” involving NBA teams actively trying not to win. Many non-contending franchises are motivated to lose for draft position. Brain trusts putting iffy lineups on the court may see those players struggle extra-badly on night two of a back-to-back.
Load management: Even contending teams will “punt” in late-season fatigue spots rather than risk injuries. That means resting stars, or cutting back on defensive intensity to pace themselves for the games that matter most in the postseason. Particularly on the road, it’s not unusual to see good teams getting more points than you’d expect on night two of a back-to-back.
How should handicappers adapt?
- Review performances in back-to-back spots earlier in the season for each NBA team (or the teams you like to handicap most), then assume things will be worse than that the next several weeks, particularly when the straight up result doesn’t matter.
- Monitor minute allotment in recent box scores to see if you can spot what changes head coaches are making in their approach. Shallow teams get hit harder by fatigue than deep teams.
- If you’re watching games on TV, monitor rotations throughout the 48 minutes. You might be able to spot five-man groups involving bench players that just can’t compete at this level. Use that information for in-game opportunities.
- Don’t auto-bet in either direction. The market is already aware of fatigue potential and is making meaningful adjustments. Blindly fading tired teams will probably break even over the long haul. Just as true, assuming the market has over-reacted is likely a mistake as well. Dig deeper to confirm real edges.
Remaining back-to-back sequences for New York teams:
Nets: March 12-13 at Golden State/at L.A. Clippers; 27-28 at Orlando/vs. Cleveland.
Knicks: March 10-11 at Washington/at Atlanta; 17-18 vs. Charlotte/at Boston; 27-28 at New Orleans/at Chicago; April 14-15 vs. Detroit/at Minnesota.