Handicapping NBA Totals

Most wagers on NBA games are placed on who will cover the spread. It’s generally a lot easier to form an opinion on who you think will win the game, rather than determine the total number of points that will be scored.  While betting NBA totals isn’t as popular as betting the spread, there is money to be made if you are willing to put in the work.  What a lot of people don’t realize is just how much goes into whether or not a game will go over or under the set total.


The first thing you have to consider when betting NBA totals is the tempo in which the two teams like to play. Different head coaches have different philosophies when it comes to the style of basketball they want their team to play. Some like to push the pace while others want to slow the game down.The style in which a team plays is usually determined by the  players they have on their roster.

If you have two teams that like to push the pace, there is a pretty good chance that game is going to see a lot of points. Similarly, if you have two defensive minded teams who like to control the ball, there is a pretty good chance that game will be low scoring.  What really makes it difficult is when you have a fast-paced team against a slow-paced team.  The flow of the game has to go one way or the other. Determining which side will be able to impose their style of play is the key to making a successful bet.


Much like with any sport, the matchups inside the game are what usually determines who wins and loses. It’s one thing to look at how team A matches up with Team B based on their overall success, but if you really want to make a profit betting the NBA, you have to look at the individual matchups. If team A has a prolific scorer or two who they really rely on to score points, who team B has to guard them is something you have to take into account. If  team B has the defensive players to matchup  with team A’s star offensive players, there is a pretty good chance this game will go under the posted total. If team B doesn’t have the defensive players to keep Team A’s stars in check, there is a pretty good chance that game will go over the total.


Whether or not a team is motivated to playon a given night has a huge impact on how many points will be scored.  How motivated a team is usually correlates well to the effort they give on the defensive side of the ball.

There are a number of different things that teams will use for motivation. Good teams  who are riding a losing streak, teams playing against a rival, teams playing against a team who embarrassed them earlier in the season, or a bad teams playing against an elite team tend to bring out their best effort.  Any time you have two motivated teams, a rivalry game, there’s a pretty good chance they will be motivated defensively and the score will be much lower than an average game. At the same time, two teams who have no reason to be motivated tend to play lackluster defense and the total usually goes over.


How well rested a team is going into a game must be taken into consideration. Teams that are playing a high number of games in a short time frame or teams on long road trips, typically don’t play their best basketball.  A lack of rest can impact a team in different ways. More than likely you won’t see a team play their best defense if they are tired or on a long road trip, but at the same time it can also lead to poor shooting as they just don’t have their legs under them. A lack of rest can also lead to a much slower pace than what teams typically like to play at.


While injury reports aren’t always accurate, it’s something you have to check out before you bet an NBA total. Injuries will impact teams in different ways depending on how much depth they have and who it is that’s injured.  The key is to look for players who have a huge impact on the number of points a team scores and the number of points it allows. Teams who are playing without their starting point guard usually see a drop in offensive production. Teams who are without key big men who specialize in blocking shots and keeping opposing teams out of the paint, tend to see their defensive numbers take a hit.

Two other keys to betting totals that I’m not going to get into a whole lot of detail are how teams perform differently depending on if the game is home/away and the impact a nationally televised game can have on the motivation for both teams. If you take the time to really incorporate these things into betting NBA totals, I strongly believe you start to see a profit.

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