NBA home underdogs have big betting bite in the conference finals

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This weekend’s two NBA conference finals games – Saturday and Sunday – were just the 32nd and 33rd time a team has been listed as a home underdog in a conference championship series since the 1991-92 season. 

The Toronto Raptors, down 0-2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals prior to Saturday’s big win and cover, were 6-point home pups hosting LeBron James and the Cavs while the Oklahoma City Thunder closed at +2 against the visiting Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the West finals, with that series knotted at one game apiece.

Looking back over the 33 instances since 1991-92 (heading into Monday) in which the home side was the betting underdog in that 24-year span, those host clubs have now posted an 20-12-1 ATS record (19-14 SU), covering the spread 62.5 percent of the time. 

Crunching those conference finals spreads down to fit Monday’s line, and home underdogs of +2.5 and higher are 11-5-0 ATS, a bankroll building 68.8 percent winner against the NBA pointspreads since 1991-92. Those particular home pups finished 10-6 SU in those contests.

Those 16 NBA conference final home dogs of +2.5 or more scored an average of 94.1 points against an average of 91.8 from the road favorite, facing an average spread of +4.59 points.

The biggest home dog during that stretch were the 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers +8 versus the Utah Jazz, who won 109-98 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. Utah would go on to sweep L.A. in four straight games. 

Toronto hadn’t been a home underdog in the playoffs before Game 3 and went a solid 5-1 ATS getting the points inside the Air Canada Centre during the regular season. Cleveland, on the other hand, has now been a betting favorite in all 11 of its postseason games this year, with a 2-3 ATS record as road chalk. The Cavaliers were just 14-21-2 ATS as road favorites during the regular season.

Overall, regardless of round (accounting for both underdogs winning and covering this weekend), home underdogs are 176-163-8 ATS (51.9%) in the NBA Playoffs since 1991-92, with Eastern home dogs going 86-94-5 (47.8%) and West home pups putting up an 90-69-3 ATS count (56.6%). Those games have a 154-190-3 Over/Under record (55.2% Under).

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