NBA Playoffs Bets and Odds Explained

NBA stadium

Just as in the NBA regular season there are different ways to make a bet on a NBA game. The three most popular ways are the straight-up bet against the spread; the money line; and the over/under point total. 

In the NBA, however, you can also bet on the series winner and most bookmarks and betting sites (Unibet NJ, PointsBet, BetAmerica) also offer several different kinds of prop bets.

The NBA playoffs consists of the top 16 teams (eight from each of the Eastern and Western Conferences) in a battle to win the NBA Championship.

The first round pits the top seeds in the East and West against the eighth seeds; the second seeds against the seventh seeds; the third seeds against the sixth seeds; and the fourth seeds against the fifth seeds.

Winners of the first round meet in the conference semifinals, then there are the conference finals and eventually the championship.

Here’s a recap on how you can bet on the NBA playoffs.  

What is Series Bet in NBA?

Before the start of each series you can bet on which team you think will win and advance. An example from the 2019 NBA playoffs was:

Milwaukee Bucks (-250) vs. Boston Celtics (+190)

If you felt the No. 1 seed Bucks would win the best-of-seven series against the No. 4 seed Celtics you would have to wager $250 to win $100.

However, if you felt the Celtics would upset the top seed, you could wager $100 to win $190.

These bets are available on every series in every round.

What is a Prop Bet in NBA?

During the NBA playoffs you can bet on almost everything imaginable. In that same example from the 2019 playoff series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics there were 154 prop bets available to the bettor on Game 2 of the series.

You could bet on the exact margin of victory for each team, with good odds. An example: You could bet on Boston to win by exactly 1 or 2 points at odds of +1,200. That means if you bet $100 on Boston to win by 1 or 2, you would win $1,200.

You could also bet on the exact amount of points scored in the game; the total amount of points scored by each team and even if the total amount would be odd or even.

There are also several types of prop bets involving individual players.

You could bet on any player on either team getting a double-double (double figures in points and rebounds, or double figures in points and assists, depending on the player).

Or you could bet on an individual player’s points. In this case, Boston’s Kyrie Irving was over/under 24 1/2 points and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was 28 1/2 points.

It goes without saying during the NBA playoffs there is a bet for anyone’s imagination.     

Now let’s recap from the our regular-season guide the traditional bets, which are also available in the playoffs.

What does Point Spread Bet means in NBA?

Oddsmakers, who work for the various casinos around the United States (mostly Las Vegas, Nevada) come up with a number —the point spread — for every NBA game every night. That number attempts to equalize the game because obviously some teams are stronger than others. The number will be accompanied by either a plus sign (+) or a minus sign (-) to indicate which team is the favorite and which team is the underdog.

A typical point spread line would look like this:

Houston Rockets (-8) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+8)

If a bettor chooses to bet on the Houston Rockets in this game, the Rockets must win by at least nine points for him, or her, to collect on the bet. A final score of Houston 105, San Antonio 95 would be a win.

If a bettor chooses to bet on the Spurs in this game, they must either win, or lose by less than eight points for him, or her, to collect on the bet. A final score of Houston 105, San Antonio 100 would be a win.

A final score of Houston 105, San Antonio 97 would result in a “push’’ and all bettors would get their money refunded, or as it’s commonly called “break even’’.  

What is The Money Line Bet?

If a bettor does not want to deal with point spreads there is the money line bet. In this case the team you choose to bet just has to win the game. Using the same two teams as our example a money-line bet would look as follows:

Houston Rockets (-400) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+250)

If a bettor chooses the Rockets in this example, if the Rockets win the game, no matter the score, the bettor wins the bet. The caveat is the bettor must wager $400 to win $100 (not great odds), or $200 to win $50.

In this same example if the bettor chooses the Spurs and they win this game, the bettor would win $250 on a $100 bet (pretty good odds).

Why would a bettor choose this type of bet over the more common point-spread bet? There are two reasons. If the bettor is convinced a team is going to win the game, but isn’t sure the team will win by as many points as the point spread indicates he won’t mind giving up the odds. Or if a bettor thinks an underdog (like the Spurs in the above example) is going to win the game straight up, why not bet it and take the good odds.

How to bet on Over/Under NBA?

This is a very simple bet that has become more and more popular in recent years. It gives fans with no strong opinion on who is going to win the game, another way to bet.

The over/under bettor wages on whether the total points scored in the game will be over, or under, the predetermined number again set by the oddsmakers at the sports book or casino.

Here’s an example using our same two teams from he previous bet.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs O/U 205

In this example if a bettor chooses “over’’ the final score (and it doesn’t matter who wins) must total more than 205 points. If the final score is Houston 105, San Antonio 101  the over bet is a winner.

If the bettor chooses “under’’ the final score must total less than 205 points. If the final score is Houston 105, San Antonio 99 the under bet is a winner.

If the final score of the game is Houston 105, San Antonio 100 the game is a “push’’ and all bettors would get their money refunded.

How do you bet on Quarter Lines and Half Lines?

The majority of bets on any sport are usually on the final outcome of the particular contest. However, for sports like the NBA, there are first quarter and first half lines offered as well. The quarter spread is used to determine who will be the winner at the end of the first quarter. The same is true for a first half line, only the wager ends when the first two quarters are completed. Generally, the first-half spread will be close to half of the overall spread on the game.

Here are examples.

How to bet on First-Quarter Line?

Houston Rockets (-2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+2)

If the Rockets lead by more than two points at the end of the first quarter, a bet on the Rockets would be a winner. If the Spurs lead at the end of the quarter, the game is tied, or the Spurs are losing by just one point, a bet on the Spurs is a winner.

How to bet on the First-Half Line?

Houston Rockets (-4) vs. San Antonio Spurs (+4)

Again this is just for the first half, so if the Rockets lead by more than four points at halftime a bet on the Rockets would be a winner. If the Spurs have the halftime lead or are losing by less than four points a bet on the Spurs is a winner.

What is The Vigin Betting?

Also known as “the juice’’ is the house’s advantage. When a bettor bets on a NBA game he, or she, is usually risking $110 to win $100 on a straight bet. That “vig’’ is what keeps the casinos and sportsbooks in business.

Photo by JC Gellidon 

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