What’s The Probability Your Team Wins Its First Round Matchup In The NBA Playoffs? Just Check The Odds.

  • Matt Rudnitsky

The 2013 NBA Playoffs, otherwise known as the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder sleepwalking competition, start on Saturday. Instead of listening to “experts” blather their predictions on TV, we’ll give you predictions from smarter people, the oddsmakers. By looking at the betting lines, you can determine the implied probability each team has to advance in the first round of the playoffs. Let’s mathmetize.

(Note: For astute readers, realize this math doesn’t account for the book’s vigorish. This is technically the “break-even” price, the percentage of bets you need to win at that price to break even. Also, there’s some rounding and stuff, so this isn’t 100% precise. And the prices are fluid, as the market reacts.)

First Round

2) Knicks vs. 7) Celtics

Series Price: Knicks (-460), Celtics (+375)
Implied Probability: Knicks 82%, Celtics 21%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Probably not. People are more inclined to bet on the Celtics in relation to similarly skilled teams because of their coaching/leadership/history, but people are inclined to bet on the Knicks because they are from New York and they are the Knicks.

Verdict: Probably a fair price. The Knicks should win.

3) Nuggets vs. 6) Warriors

Series Price: Nuggets (-625), Warriors (+495)
Implied Probability: Nuggets 86.2%, Warriors 16.8%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Perhaps, towards the Warriors. The Nuggets are 38-3 at home. The Warriors are 28-13 at home. They have identical 19-22 road records. It’s very unlikely the Nuggets will lose a home game, and they have home-court advantage. Seriously, how will the Nuggets lose a home game? And, a road win wouldn’t be a shock.

Verdict: Probably too pricey to back the Nuggets, but even an 86.2% probability might be understating their chances.

4) Nets vs. 5) Bulls

Series Price: Nets (-165), Bulls (+145)
Implied Probability: Nets 62.3%, Bulls 40.9%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

I don’t think it’s inflated, but there could be value here. This will come down to matchups, I’d say, as the teams are nearly even, which is why the home team is a fairly significant favorite. I can tell you that Chicago won the season series 3-1, winning two home games and a road game. The Nets’ only win was at home.

Verdict: This is best left to people who know more about basketball than me. I’m not sure who will win, but I don’t think the price is inflated. If you know more about basketball than me, I’d love to hear your opinion on this matchup of evenly-matched basketballers.

4) Clippers vs. 5) Grizzlies

Series Price: Clippers (-165), Grizzlies (+145)
Implied Probability: Clippers 62.3%, Grizzlies 40.9%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Both teams were 32-9 at home and 24-17 on the road. But the Clippers won the season series 3-1, splitting two games at home yet winning both road games in Memphis. Again, I need to refer to smarter basketball people about this, but at first glance, there appears to be value on LA. But I don’t really know.

Verdict: If I was on ESPN and told to make a prediction, I’d tell you to bet on the Clippers. I’m not, so I won’t.

3) Pacers vs. 6) Hawks

Series Price: Pacers (-580), Hawks (+465)
Implied Probability: Pacers 85.3%, Hawks 17.7%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

Yes. Think about it: ask an average NBA fan if they would bet on the Hawks. They will say no. Yet the line has already started to move in favor of the Hawks. The Pacers are heavy favorites and should win, but this is probably a bit inflated.

Verdict: I’m not betting the Hawks, but they may be a smart flier bet to take. I wouldn’t recommend throwing lots of you hard-earned cash to potentially make a tiny bit, by betting on the Pacers.

2) Spurs vs. 7) Lakers

Series Price: Spurs (-1400), Lakers (+970)
Implied Probability: Spurs 93.3%, Lakers 9.3%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

No, because the Lakers suck with Kobe Bryant and now they don’t have Kobe Bryant. If anything, it’s inflated towards the Spurs, but I can’t say that a 93.3% chance is an inflated number. Injuries, miracles, etc.

Verdict: The Lakers only have three road wins, all year, that are worth mentioning. At Indiana, at Brooklyn, and at Golden State. That’s it. It would be a miracle to beat the Spurs on the road. A home win will be a big upset, too. Don’t overthink this. If you really want to throw away a few dollars on the Lakers, go ahead. But you’re dumb, and you should play three-card monte with me right now.

1) Heat vs. 8) Bucks

Series Price: Heat (-8000), Bucks (+4500)
Implied Probability: Heat 98.8%, Bucks 2.2%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

No. The Miami Heat are going to beat the Milwaukee Bucks. But, no, you aren’t going to bet $100 to win $1.25 because you have more productive things to do with your time.

Verdict: Stop.

1) Thunder vs. 8) Rockets

Series Price: Thunder (-2100), Rockets (+1300)
Implied Probability: Thunder 95.5%, Warriors 7.1%

Non-expert analysis: Is this inflated?

No. I don’t see value on either team. If James Harden goes nuts, the Rockets can outscore the Thunder for a game or two, but a series win would be an absolute shock. If you must, must take a stupid flier on a huge underdog, I suppose this is the one. 7.1% is fair.

Verdict: No.

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