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Betting Factors for NBA Stretch Run: Points Should Decline

NBA teams are approaching their 60th game of the season, the last quarter pole of a lap around the track. It’s about when we see a slight shift in the overall vibe as intensity, physicality, and emotion all increase. There are factors within the final push that can make an impact on the sportsbook, too. Let’s take a look at a few you might want to consider.


Betting Factors for NBA Stretch Run: Points Should Decline
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers/Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP


Offenses operate with relatively little resistance these days due to rule changes, how the game is called, and – at times – lack of effort on the defensive end. It’s a trend that’s existed for the past few years, with the midseason showcase taking on a circus-like atmosphere where the idea of help defense or an old-school basic like seeing both man and the ball is obsolete.

It took Las Vegas NBA odds makers some time to catch up this season, as teams were hitting the over on a pretty regular basis early in the season. Slowly, though, we’ve seen defenses – at least the good ones – begin to find their footing, and the unders are popping up much more lately.

In fact, the under has occurred roughly 60 times more than the over for the season, a marked contrast from early in the campaign when the Vegas number was often something reasonable and then Indiana would defeat Washington 195-189.

That didn’t happen, of course, but there were some galactic numbers for a stretch there. Now? Well, now we’re seeing teams like the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and – of course – the Minnesota Timberwolves put the clamps down, regularly holding opponents under 100 or even under 90 points.

Here’s another way to look at it. Currently, seven teams are giving up fewer than 110 points in February. Just three teams did that in January and only one (Philadelphia) in December. Need more evidence? On Tuesday night, 10 of the 11 games hit on the under, with only Cleveland-Dallas going over in what will heretofore be known as the Max Strus Affair. Eight teams were held under the century mark.

You’ve seen more fights, more ejections, and more pushing and shoving of late. It’s all part of this mix. Nothing comes easy once March rolls around, and that’s especially true of points. Factor this into your NBA picks going forward.


Mailing it in

The NBA has made two notable changes in recent years to keep more teams relevant late in the season, first revamping the lottery system such that the odds of a top pick aren’t as favorable for the worst teams as they once were. Then, the play-in tournament was added, giving 10 teams in each conference – as opposed to eight – the chance to keep playing deeper into the spring.

Still, there will be a handful of teams that begin the process of closing up shop. There are the obvious ones such as Detroit, Washington, Charlotte, San Antonio, and Portland. And there may be some more obvious ones in the coming days and weeks, as there’s a real notable separation between the 10th team (the last one in a play-in situation) and the 11th (the first one on the outs) in both conferences.

Entering Wednesday, the 11th-place Nets (as well as 12th-place Toronto) are four games behind 10th-place Atlanta in the East and the 11th-place Jazz are four games behind the 10th-place Lakers in the West. Therefore, we could see Brooklyn, Toronto, Utah, Houston, and Memphis quickly added to the “Let’s get ready for next season” pile if they haven’t begun that process already.

This might not always manifest itself in effort, as players have individual goals as well. They often want to finish strong regardless. But a mandate from the front office to rest a guy here and there, or to pull back on the reins in an effort to boost those lottery odds a tiny bit could come into play.

Keep an eye on the back half of the standings when analyzing the NBA odds.


Award season

It’s also time to keep an eye on players’ game totals. They must appear in 65 games to be eligible for awards, per a new rule by the NBA that has stoked both criticism and praise. It’s helped to keep several big names in lineups more often and cut down on those “injury maintenance” nights, but some have worried that it’s pushed players too much (see Embiid, Joel).

Regardless, many big names will be flirting with that 65-game mark and several more will be eyeing the 58-game plateau, which is necessary to qualify for statistical categories. All of these achievements are part of contract negotiations and nobody wants to miss out on a chance to boost their resume.

Look for certain guys to put their foot on the gas to qualify and others to begin to take it easy if they have no chance. This will mostly come into play in late March or early April.



Questions Of The Day

Is there an under that should hit on Wednesday night’s NBA games?

The first three Cavaliers-Bulls games this season have been low-scoring and both teams are playing the second half of a back-to-back on Wednesday. This could become a rock fight, and that 216½ number on the NBA betting odds sheet seems high.

Are there any awards still up for grabs?

Certainly. Nikola Jokic is the front-runner for MVP but don’t sleep on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Jayson Tatum. A few guys could still challenge Tyrese Maxey for Most Improved. Steph Curry is the favorite for Clutch POY, but Shai is a contender as well.

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