When it comes to NBA bets, point spread betting is one of the most common type of bets out there. Basketball fans have been betting against the spread for a long time, as they look to earn a payout laying or taking the points all season long. From the preseason to the NBA Playoffs, until the NBA championship is awarded, this market is available and synonymous with sports gambling. In this guide to NBA point spread bets, find out everything you need to know before placing your point spread wagers.
NBA Point Spread Betting Explained
In NBA point spread betting, the goal for bettors is to determine the winner of NBA games after a number of points is added to or subtracted from one team’s total. And unlike NBA moneyline odds, there is the potential that the winning team does not win after the spread is applied. There is also the potential for ties, when the favorite wins by the exact amount of points subtracted from their score using the spread.
As it pertains to NBA spread betting, there is a favorite and an underdog in each game. The favorite is the team who has points deducted from their score. This is denoted by a minus sign, with their point spread amount appearing as a negative number. The underdog, meanwhile, has points added to their score in the spread market. This is shown in the form of a plus sign next to their handicap number, indicating the positive number will be added to their final score.
When a game is over, bettors can add or subtract the point spread from their team’s score. If the team they backed has more points than their opponent once the handicap is applied, their bet is a winner. If the scores are equal post-handicap, the bet is graded as a push and the bettor is refunded. And if the team being wagered on has fewer points post-handicap, the bet is graded as a loss.
Typically, the odds for spread bets are -110 on each side, though that could fluctuate slightly depending on where a bet is being placed. Unlike in the moneyline market, bettors do not have to risk more money to back a heavier favorite, they instead have to lay more points with that favorite, who then has to win by a larger margin to cover the number.
NBA Point Spread Bet Example
In this example of NBA spread wagers, the Boston Celtics are a three-point home underdog against the Los Angeles Lakers in a January regular season matchup. This means that as the favorite team in this scenario, the Lakers would have three points taken from their total at the end of the game. It also means that the Lakers’ margin of victory would have to be more than three points to cover the spread.
If the underdog wins outright in this example, the Celtics would cover the spread by having three points added to their already superior score. If the favored team wins by less than three, the Celtics cover the spread still. If the Lakers win by exactly three, the bet is graded as a push. And if the Lakers win by four or more, they are the winners in this example of a spread bet in the NBA.
NBA Point Spread Movement
Spread bets are the best example of how NBA betting lines can shift before the start of a game. Once these lines are released, the most shrewd handicappers use the data at their disposal to bet the early lines aggressively when market inefficiencies make it worth doing so. Oddsmakers then respond to those early bets by adjusting the betting lines when warranted. The goal of any NBA bettor should be to get the best NBA odds that they can, whether that means betting into the market early or waiting for value to present itself through line movement.
One thing that NBA bettors should try to avoid is waiting until right before the start of a game to place their NBA bets. By the time a game is ready to start, the spread market has often settled into a position that is not as favorable to the bettor as it was earlier in the day before movement has taken place. It takes practice, but bettors should be sure to study how lines move and fine tune when in the cycle they should place their bets to maximize their chances of being profitable.
NBA Point Spread Key Numbers
Point-spread numbers in the NBA, whether they come from NBA Vegas odds or odds elsewhere in the country, should be looked at through the lens of key numbers in the sport. Where football has three and seven point intervals as their key numbers, basketball is different in that the scoring comes in ones, twos and threes, and there are so many more possessions in the game to change the margins of victory.
The most common margin of victory in the NBA is a seven-point margin, which makes sense as seven is the first time that a score is separated by three possessions. Once a game is three possessions apart, teams are more likely to stop fouling and let the clock run out than they are in a two possession game. But it should be noted that this outcome still happens under seven percent of the time. Bettors should look to bet based on value against the number rather than looking for a specific point spread value.
How To Place An NBA Point Spread Bet
To place an NBA bet, bettors can go to a variety of sportsbooks depending on the laws in the state that they are in. While cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City are full of legal sports betting options, those in other states are not always as accommodating.
In states that do have legal sports betting, bettors can use the sportsbooks they are permitted to utilize to place bets on basketball spreads, along with props, future odds and many other wager types. Betting on other sports is available in most cases also, with football, baseball and hockey often being on the menu. For those looking to spice things up with parlays, using a parlay calculator to determine potential payouts ahead of time can help with planning out wagers.
NBA Point Spread FAQ
What does a +7 spread mean?
A +7 spread in the NBA means that the favorite in that game would have seven points subtracted from their score, or the underdog would have seven points added to their score.
How do point spreads work in the NBA?
In the NBA, point spreads work as they do in all other sports. The amount of the point spread is added to the score of the underdog, or subtracted from the score of the favorite. The team with the higher score after that number has been applied to the actual score of the game is the winner for the purposes of the spread bet.
What is a spread in basketball betting?
A basketball spread is the amount of points awarded as a handicap in an NBA game. Unlike prop bets or NBA futures odds, these are limited to either one game or a portion of the game and involve both teams for that one time period only.
What is a 2.5 point spread?
Just like the above explanation of a +7 spread, a 2.5-point NBA spread means that the favorite will have 2.5 points taken from their score or the underdog will have 2.5 points added on.