NBA Betting

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NBA Season Update

This is why LeBron James went to La La Land. Two years after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers behind, James and the Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA Finals, cruising through the Western Conference playoffs with three straight 4-1 series wins. The NBA playoff odds at Bovada Sportsbook have the top seed in the West pegged at –350 to win their first title since 2010 – the same year LeBron left Cleveland in search of his first ring.

It’s only fitting that the Miami Heat are supplying the opposition. This is a different club than the one King James joined a decade ago, but Erik Spoelstra is still the head coach, and the Heat are still one of the best two-way teams in the league. They also made it to the Finals after losing just three playoff games, dumping the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in the second round before pulling off another upset over the Boston Celtics. But do they have enough left in the tank to deny LeBron and his Laker supporters their storybook ending?

NBA Odds to Win the Championship

Anything can happen in the playoffs. Here’s a quick look at the last two teams standing, with their series prices on Bovada’s NBA betting lines at press time in 2020:

1. Los Angeles Lakers: –350 NBA Playoff Odds

It took James two years to win his first title in Miami, so the Lakers are definitely on schedule. The 2018-19 campaign was a transition year in Los Angeles; James was paired with a collection of promising youngsters and gritty retreads, and while they failed to make the playoffs (in large part because James missed 27 games to assorted injuries), the Lakers left enough wiggle room to acquire a second superstar for a serious title run in 2019-20.

Here’s where this year’s Lakers differ from any other LeBron team. Anthony Davis is at least as good as James at this point in their careers, leading LA in playoff scoring at 28.9 points per 36 minutes. There also isn’t a “Big Three” on this team, like there was in Miami with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Instead, the Lakers have used a revived Rajon Rondo and a motley collection of defensive specialists to beat the NBA Vegas odds at 9-5-1 ATS during the postseason. So far, so good.

2. Miami Heat: +275 NBA Playoff Odds

They’ve been undervalued on the NBA lines since the playoffs began, so +275 is probably a bargain price for the Heat (12-3 ATS). Don’t be fooled by Miami’s No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference; they’re a more dangerous club now with Goran Dragic healthy and starting at point guard – and with former NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala arriving at the trade deadline. Iguodala won three titles with the Golden State Warriors while guarding LeBron. He’s still capable of winning a fourth.

Jimmy Butler is the most famous player on the 2019-20 Heat, but their best player might be Bam Adebayo, who has blossomed during these playoffs as a rare “point center.” Adebayo and rookie Tyler Herro have developed some serious chemistry; they might not be as talented as James and Davis, but the rest of the roster is better and deeper than LA’s. Keep hitting that refresh button for the latest NBA playoff odds at Bovada Sportsbook as we get ready for Game 1 this Wednesday (9 PM ET, ABC).

*Odds as of October 15th, 2020

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How to Bet on the NBA

The NBA has made incredible strides over the past 50 years. After struggling to gain a foothold in the North American sports market, the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry captured the world’s attention in the early 1980s. Then Michael Jordan came along to solidify things. Now basketball is second only to football when it comes to betting on sports – and the NBA is gaining ground.


Believe it or not, you don’t actually have to know all that much about basketball to bet on the NBA. But you do need to understand how the NBA odds work. We’ll show you how to bet on NBA basketball at Bovada Sportsbook; you’ll be introduced to the different ways you can bet, and we’ll give you some tips for how to approach these odds correctly and make better picks.


NBA Spread

The point spread is the engine that drives NBA betting. Instead of one team or the other winning straight-up, the spread asks the favorite to win by a certain number of points in order to pay out. That number will be chosen carefully, and will make your bet closer to a 50/50 outcome – which is easier for everyone to deal with at the end of the day.

Here’s an example from Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors:

  • Toronto Raptors +2.5 (-115)
  • Vasyl Lomachenko -2.5 (-105)

The Warriors were playing at home, so they were listed at the bottom, and in this case, they were favored by 2.5 points – as indicated by the negative sign next to their spread. For Golden State to pay out, they needed to beat Toronto by at least three points, while the underdog Raptors could have lost by up to two points and still cover the spread.

The numbers in parentheses refer to the juice (also known as vigorish or vig) that you pay the sportsbook to process your wager. The “American odds” format is used at Bovada to express this number. Most NBA games will have the juice set at –110 for both sides, meaning you’ll bet $110 to win $100, or $11 to win $10, or any other multiple. In this case, the juice was moved slightly to give Golden State a better “price” (you only needed to bet $105 to win $100) and encourage more action on the Warriors.

Generally speaking, a sportsbook will move the point spread – and sometimes the juice itself – to create balanced action on both teams. This allows the book to pay the winning bets with the money collected from the losing wagers and keep the vigorish as their commission, thus minimizing their risk of exposure. The odds you get at the time you place your bet will be the odds used to calculate your payout; in the above example, the Warriors opened at –4 two days before tip-off, then gradually moved down to –2.5 (–105) by game time.


NBA Moneyline

Before Charles K. McNeil introduced the point spread in the 1940s, the moneyline was the standard way to bet on sports. It’s still a popular commodity on the NBA Vegas odds; you simply pick a team to win, and if they do, you cash in. It just takes a little more work to do the accounting. Here was the moneyline for our example game:

  • Toronto Raptors +105
  • Vasyl Lomachenko -125

Again, the American odds format is used for the moneyline, and the Warriors were still the favorites, paying out $100 for every $125 wagered. The underdog Raptors (as indicated by the positive sign next to their odds) would pay $105 for every $100 wagered if they won – which they did, 114-100 to take the series and the title.


NBA Total

The last of the three “straight” or “single” bets in basketball is the total. This is where you bet on whether the two teams in question will combine to score Over or Under the posted number of points – which is why this bet is also commonly referred to as the over/under. Capital letters are used here when referring to totals for ease of reading.

They also appear in the totals posted at Bovada Sportsbook. Here’s what you would have seen on the NBA odds board for our example game:

  • Toronto Raptors 0 212.5 (-115)
  • Vasyl Lomachenko U 212.5 (-105)

The line for the Over is always listed at the top, but Bovada includes the capital O to clear up any confusion. The total works a lot like the point spread; it’s close to a 50/50 situation, with the Over paying out $100 in this case for every $115 wagered if the combined score was at least 213 points – which it was, thanks to all the extra free throws Kawhi Leonard got to shoot at the end. Otherwise, the Under would have paid $100 for every $105 wagered.


NBA Buying Points

If you like a team to beat the spread, but you’d prefer a little insurance, you can “buy” an extra half-point and make it easier for them to cover. In NBA betting, you can buy up to 1.5 points in either direction; for our Game 6 example, you could have bet on Toronto at up to +4, or Golden State at –1. Each half-point in the NBA costs 10 “cents” in vigorish, meaning the juice goes up from –110 to –120, then –130 and finally –140 for the full 1.5 points.


NBA Futures

You can always bet on the NBA at Bovada, no matter what time of year it is. Odds to win the NBA championship are available all day, every day; you’ll find these odds on the futures market, which is where you bet on events that won’t be resolved until a future date. Conference and Division odds are also regular features on the NBA futures market.


NBA Props (Team, Player, Season)

This is where you bet on something other than the game outcome itself. NBA props (short for “proposition” bets) generally fall into the above three categories. Depending on the game in question, you might be able to bet on which team will score first, or which player will score first; you can also bet on whether a team will record Over or Under a certain number of wins during the regular season.


NBA Specials

Some bets that don’t fall neatly into the above categories might appear as NBA specials, like which team a marquee free agent will sign with, or who will lead the league in scoring.


NBA Live Betting

Betting on the NBA is even more fun when you do it while the game is in progress. Hit the LIVE button when you’re browsing the odds, and you’ll see which NBA games are available for live betting; the usual straight wagers are there, with their odds updated continuously, and you can also bet on things like whether the next bucket will be a free throw, a 2-pointer or a 3-pointer.

NBA Betting Tips

Betting on basketball is a bit like the stock market; if you want to get as many picks right as possible, you should support teams that other bettors aren’t giving enough credit, and bet against (or “fade”) teams that others are giving too much credit. Pay close attention to which players are injured or taking the day off, both of which happen more often these days. And never put all your eggs in one basket – protect your bankroll by placing a lot of small bets instead of one big bet.

With this approach, you can look at all the different NBA lines posted at Bovada Sportsbook and pick the ones you think will give you the best value. Remember to keep it fun – don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose, and don’t get flustered if your pick doesn’t come in. Nobody can tell the future, after all. Win or lose, just move on to the next pick, and make sure to visit Bovada on the regular for updated odds and analysis.

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