With the exception of talent, when it comes to NBA betting, the most important factor to consider is the home court, right?
Well, not exactly.
Actually, there's not much difference in courts. They're all made of wood and while the court logos are of varying colors, designs and questionable tastes, all have a 10-foot basket at each end. Supposedly, there's some advantage to "knowing the rims" but since metal mostly comes into play on missed shots and no one deliberately tries to miss, it's difficult to see where the advantage lies. Yes, we know from a rudimentary 10th-grade course in physics that longer shots produce longer rebounds but the direction of the carom is based more on the trajectory of the shot than anything to do with the condition of the rims.
Another supposed advantage of the home court is the local fans. But it's hard to accept the notion that professionals, who balk at signing autographs unless they're paid, are motivated by the very same people they so willingly shun. Besides, what did all that ranting and raving by Spike Lee at Madison Square Garden ever do for New York? Reggie Miller still did the right thing by the Pacers and destroyed the Knicks.
The final alleged advantage of playing at home is that players gain some sort of "comfort level" from sleeping in their own beds. Excuse me, but weren't you paying attention to the Gold Club trial in Atlanta a few years ago? Based on the evidence, it seems that many a player readily would relinquish a night under his own satin sheets if an, ahem, "dancer" were made available for some companionship.
That being said, there is an advantage to playing at home but it has little to do with the court, the fans or the sleeping conditions. It has everything to do with getting to the court.
Clear and simple, visiting teams are disadvantaged most by travel, a factor we touched on but did not fully explore in a previous article. In fact, how far a team has to travel, how many time zones it crosses, the direction it travels and how many games it's forced to play in a given number of nights are crucial elements in both NBA oddsmaking and NBA betting.
Remember how tired and out of synch you were after a cross Atlantic flight? Now try running six miles (the average distance a basketball player runs in a game) in a different venue, three out of four or four out of six nights and see how it impacts your athletic performance. NBA betting pros understand that no team can be “up” for every game, that fatigue can become a significant factor, and point spreads often grow in proportion to the length of a road trip.
It's also worth noting that it's more difficult on the body to travel against the sun, or west to east, than it is to go east to west. So, NBA teams based in the Western and Rocky Mountain Time Zones often are disadvantaged more by long road trips than are teams in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. One way they overcome this handicap is by flying all the way east to start the road trip then work their way back west.
Oddsmakers and NBA betting experts not only consider the journey of the road team but also note whether the home team has been stationed in familiar confines for a period of time or is itself just returning from a lengthy trip.
Often overlooked by the casual player, savvy bettors understand that it's always important to check the schedule.
Interestingly, despite playing 82 home games to gain one extra postseason home date in a series, the home court means less in the playoffs than it does during the regular season. Generally, that's because teams in a post-season series have similar travel itineraries. For example, if San Antonio and Sacramento are set to square off in a best-of-seven series beginning in Texas, once the Kings visit the Spurs for the initial two games in the series, the teams will have similar travel schedules, flying to Northern California within hours of each other. That also will be the case if a return flight to San Antonio is needed to finish the series. The sameness of travel mitigates the home-court advantage.
Yes, talent counts in NBA betting, but cagey bettors also understand that it’s important to check those schedules before placing a wager.