NBA First Half Investing

Sports bets are usually laid on the results of full games regardless of whether you’re making a play on the spread, Over/Under or the moneyline. But did you know that investments like these can also be made for shorter segments of a game?

Today the ScoreMetrics labs explores some recent trends for first half investing on the NBA.

Basketball is a game of runs and some teams have tendencies to peak at certain points of the game. Today we’ll see if we can capitalize on some of these tendencies.

It should be noted that this article explores recent trends from this ongoing NBA season. Before making conclusions on the long-term profitability of potential investments, the ScoreMetrics labs looks at longer historical datasets and does backtesting to prove an investment hypothesis. So, treat this as an introduction for something to be explored further! For now, it’s a but of education and lot of entertainment, so enjoy.

Against the spread (ATS)

Let’s begin by looking at the first half ATS records. 

This data is from the 24th of January 2020. You’ll see the overall, home and away records for each team. The number next to the record is the team’s point differential (the average numeric gap between points scored and allowed). 

1st Half ATS Records

TeamOverallHomeAway
Mavericks28-16 (2.25)12-12 (0.5)16-4 (4.35)
Thunder27-17-1 (0.04)13-10 (-0.04)14-7-1 (0.14)
Bulls26-19-1 (0.37)13-10-1 (0.63)13-9 (0.09)
Heat26-18 (4.23)13-8 (8.19)13-10 (0.61)
Grizzlies26-17-1 (-0.48)15-10 (0.68)11-7-1 (-2.0)
Nets26-17 (0.95)14-9 (0.52)12-8 (1.45)
Bucks25-18-2 (7.67)13-10 (10.35)12-8-2 (4.86)
Rockets25-18 (3.12)15-7 (6.05)10-11 (0.05)
Warriors24-21-1 (-4.85)13-9-1 (-3.78)11-12 (-5.91)
Clippers24-21 (4.29)11-12 (5.52)13-9 (3.0)
Pacers24-21 (1.53)15-7 (3.82)9-14 (-0.65)
Lakers24-20-1 (4.87)12-8-1 (8.76)12-12 (1.46)
Raptors24-20 (2.27)14-9 (5.0)10-11 (-0.71)
Jazz24-20 (1.98)12-8 (7.05)12-12 (-2.25)
Magic22-23 (0.09)11-11 (1.64)11-12 (-1.39)
76ers21-25 (2.98)11-11 (6.95)10-14 (-0.67)
Pistons21-22-2 (-0.84)11-11 (0.36)10-11-2 (-2.0)
Wizards21-22-1 (-4.23)11-8-1 (-0.35)10-14 (-7.46)
Kings21-22-1 (-2.11)9-12 (-2.29)12-10-1 (-1.96)
Celtics21-22 (2.21)11-12 (3.39)10-10 (0.85)
Hornets20-24-1 (-4.16)10-10-1 (-2.29)10-14 (-5.79)
Hawks19-26 (-6.09)11-11 (-4.5)8-15 (-7.61)
Timberwolves19-25 (-0.57)7-14 (-0.43)12-11 (-0.7)
Spurs19-24 (0.09)8-14 (-2.23)11-10 (2.52)
Nuggets19-23-2 (0.89)11-10-2 (2.0)8-13 (-0.33)
Cavaliers18-27 (-5.58)8-14 (-4.14)10-13 (-6.96)
Trail Blazers17-29 (-1.17)8-13 (1.67)9-16 (-3.56)
Pelicans17-28 (-2.98)8-14 (-1.32)9-14 (-4.57)
Suns17-27 (-1.0)7-18 (-1.88)10-9 (0.16)
Knicks16-29 (-5.36)9-13 (-3.32)7-16 (-7.3)

What can we learn from this when we compare the data to the full game ATS records from this season? Let’s look at a few of the interesting cases.

Dallas are the 1st half ATS leader with a 63.3% record. Their full game ATS record is at 54.5%, so there’s quite a difference there. Interestingly, they’re 50/50 ATS at home in first halves, but have a ridiculous 80% ATS record away. We’ll keep an eye out on whether they continue starting games fast on the road.

The Thunder have the best full game ATS record in the league at 67.3%. It’s not surprising to see them high up on the 1st half table. 

The Bulls at 26-19-1 are a surprise though. They are 46.9% ATS in full games but pop out at 56.5% for first halves. Are Jim Boylen’s young team running out of gas after decent starts and could we maybe capitalize on this trend?

Over/Under (O/U)

Moving on to Over/Under records, also from the 24th of January 2020. 

1st Half OVER/UNDER Records
TeamOverallHomeAway
Wizards30-14 (121.68)15-5 (121.35)15-9 (121.96)
Pistons28-15-2 (113.33)16-6 (115.0)12-9-2 (111.74)
Heat26-18 (111.91)14-7 (112.1)12-11 (111.74)
76ers25-21 (107.63)11-11 (107.32)14-10 (107.92)
Cavaliers25-20 (108.47)13-9 (110.86)12-11 (106.17)
Rockets25-17-1 (118.09)11-10-1 (114.86)14-7 (121.48)
Lakers24-21 (113.76)9-12 (110.95)15-9 (116.21)
Mavericks24-19-1 (115.75)13-10-1 (113.17)11-9 (118.85)
Trail Blazers23-22-1 (113.13)9-12 (114.43)14-10-1 (112.04)
Clippers23-22 (113.4)13-10 (112.83)10-12 (114.0)
Grizzlies22-22 (112.75)14-11 (116.04)8-11 (108.42)
Spurs22-20-1 (111.4)9-12-1 (111.32)13-8 (111.48)
Knicks21-24 (109.53)11-11 (108.59)10-13 (110.43)
Pacers21-24 (107.22)10-12 (106.36)11-12 (108.04)
Suns21-23 (110.68)12-13 (112.68)9-10 (108.05)
Warriors20-26 (110.15)11-12 (110.13)9-14 (110.17)
Timberwolves20-24 (113.2)10-11 (112.14)10-13 (114.17)
Nets20-23 (110.81)10-13 (113.22)10-10 (108.05)
Bucks20-21-4 (111.44)9-12-2 (113.74)11-9-2 (109.05)
Hawks19-26 (114.13)6-16 (110.23)13-10 (117.87)
Pelicans19-25-1 (116.76)9-13 (115.68)10-12-1 (117.78)
Hornets19-25-1 (108.42)9-12 (107.62)10-13-1 (109.13)
Nuggets19-25 (106.66)12-11 (105.48)7-14 (107.95)
Magic19-24-2 (104.84)7-13-2 (102.0)12-11 (107.57)
Thunder18-27 (108.4)9-14 (111.26)9-13 (105.41)
Raptors18-25-1 (108.59)10-13 (109.26)8-12-1 (107.86)
Jazz18-25-1 (106.3)8-11-1 (108.05)10-14 (104.83)
Celtics18-23-2 (106.26)11-11-1 (108.7)7-12-1 (103.45)
Kings15-29 (107.3)8-13 (105.24)7-16 (109.17)
Bulls14-30-2 (105.72)9-14-1 (106.63)5-16-1 (104.73)

The Wizards, the Pistons and the Heat are also top in full game O/U rankings. Surprisingly, the Spurs are about even in their first half O/U record but have hit the over 61.7% of the time in full games (2nd in the league). 

The Hawks are another team that pops out in similar fashion – they have gone under 57.8% of the time in first halves, but over in 58.3% of the time in full games. 

The Wizards going over in home games at a 75% rate and the Bulls going under in road games 72.7% of the time are some pretty crazy numbers. Similarly, the Pistons have a great over record at home and the Kings have been hitting the under hard when playing away from home.

The sample size is small though, so we’re not making hasty decisions before digging deeper.

What next?

The first half betting landscape differs from full NBA games. In this article we briefly pointed out a few bits of information that could be used as a starting point for further research to find good investment opportunities. 

When diving deeper behind the records, looking at historical data and analyzing the matchups, we can start to form more educated investment hypothesis. We encourage you to do the same – pick an interesting trend and start exploring. You might be on your way to an investment goldmine!

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