Finding Value on NBA Totals

NBA totals is one betting market where it is difficult to make money. While other sports offer up points or goals to opponents late in a game, an NBA team can only score points for itself. Hockey has empty net goals. NFL teams give up points on pick-sixes, fumble returns and interception returns for touchdowns, and safeties. This doesn’t happen in basketball.

Key Points

– The number of possessions a team has in a game is directly related to NBA totals betting.

– Betting on basketball totals is tricky and requires study in order to have success.

Betting NBA Totals

Betting on totals in NBA games is a challenge. Some teams play great defense. Others play at breakneck speeds and score tons of points. 

There are games when teams can’t hit the broad side of a barn. In others, they shoot the lights out. 

Think about a night when you have determined that you like the Under in a game where your online sportsbook offers a total of 220. One team is on fire and shoots 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the three-point arc.

That team ends up scoring 60 percent of the total, or 132 points. While big routs happen in the NBA, a 132-88 game that results in a push is highly unlikely. That’s the frustration of betting on NBA totals.


Pay Attention to Pace

Regardless of whether you are rooting for the Over or the Under, pace is one of the most important determinants of the end result. 

Handicappers can estimate the number of possessions a team will have per game. This is the pace of play. The reasoning here is that a game will be quicker and offer more scoring opportunities for each team if a team has more possessions. 

The formula for calculating possessions per game is a difficult one. The calculation itself isn’t all that important, but understanding possessions per game is. 

Why does this statistic matter when betting on NBA totals? Consider it this way. A team has more opportunities to score and rack up points the more possessions it has. A team gives its opponent more possessions the more possessions it has. 

The opposite is true for the other side. The Under is likely to be played when teams play at slower paces. It is also true that sometimes sportsbooks inflate lines, especially for Over bettors.

Consider that 10 years ago, NBA teams averaged 91.3 possessions per game. This year, that number is 99.3. It makes sense then that scoring in the NBA is up compared to a decade ago.

Offensive & Defensive Rating

In essence, defensive rating is points allowed per game but expressed in a more detailed way. Every team experiences highs and lows over the course of a taxing 82-game schedule.

When things are going well, the offense and defense play well together.  The points allowed category takes the entire body of work into account, regardless of the position a team may be in. Maybe a team is playing its third game in four nights.

Bettors that have issues with these numbers can always consult with a professional handicapper. They can help you make better decisions.

In considering a team’s defense, a better measure of the team’s defense is its defensive rating. This number is expressed as points surrendered per 100 possessions. Think about a team that has a defensive rating of 105.6. Every 100 possessions, the team allows 105.6 points. 

Teams that have lower defensive ratings – like this team – will often lean more toward the Under. On the other end, teams with higher offensive ratings – like 115.5, for example – trend more to the Over.

Now, placing an NBA totals wager solely based on these stats is foolish. The offensive or defensive rating of a team is just one of numerous factors that must be taken into account.

In terms of team ratings, this is the other side of the coin. You can find out a team’s offensive rating by looking at their points per 100 possessions. The pace of play formula indicates that not every team in the league averages 100 possessions per game, so using this statistic by itself to make irrational totals bets would be foolish.

Scheduling, Rest & NBA Totals

Last but not least, one of the easiest wagering tips for NBA totals bettors is to consider the overall league schedule. There are times when teams play on back-to-back nights. There are times when teams play three games in four nights. Sometimes, teams play six times in eight nights.

Fatigue is a factor in a long 82-game regular season. Then, there is the concept of load management. There are players who rarely play on back-to-back nights. Teams will sit a star player to give him rest. 

All of this plays a role when betting on NBA totals. When a star player sits out, sometimes teams counter that by playing at a faster pace and end up scoring more points when their star is out. 

If it’s a playoff game, teams typically play slower because every possession matters in a game where teams can be eliminated.  

Bettors can also look to see how well-rested a team is compared to its opponent. There are times when a team may be off for two or three consecutive days and play a team coming off a game the day before. The team with the extra rest is much fresher. That will play a role when handicapping NBA totals.