I received this question via email today:
I just saw odds on the LA clippers(up 3-1) to win series at: -360
Just wondered if you thought that was a good price/bet? Seems hard to come back from down 3-1, but we both know stranger things have happened 🙂
I thought I’d share my response with everyone:
Marc, you are definitely on to something. There isn’t much worse for an NBA playoff team than facing a 3-1 deficit. The only thing worse is facing a 3-0 hole. How bad is it for teams down 3-1?
There have been 186 teams in the NBA playoffs who entered a game five with a 3-1 lead. Only eight of those teams have lost the series. That’s a 95.7% success rate for the team with the big lead. A fair moneyline on a bet with those odds would be -2225. So, getting -360 is a tremendous overlay and appears to be a very good bet.
Caveat: If we dig deeper into the teams that were able to come back, teams down 3-1 playing at home in game five (Memphis) have a better shot than teams on the road (i.e. the Knicks) for obvious reasons. Six of the eight teams to pull off the big comeback had home court advantage. So, the 95.7% is too high an estimate for this particular series in which Memphis is at home and these teams are pretty evenly matched.
Does that mean the bet at -360 isn’t good? Let’s continue analyzing a bit further…
If we reverse-engineer this math, we can see what the odds of -360 are telling us. A bet at -360 odds implies a 78.3% chance of winning. So, if we believe that the Clippers have a better chance than that of winning this series, the bet remains good one. My rough (conservative) estimate at this point is that LA has at least an 85% chance of closing out this series. Remember, a Memphis comeback would be historic (this has only happened eight times out of 186 tries). So, I do think Memphis at -360 represents value.
A better bet if it were available might be the Heat to win their series vs. the Knicks. The chance that New York comes back down 3-1 with game 5 on the road vs. a far superior team are close to zero. But then again, the oddsmakers know this and that’s why they have yet to post a series bet for this.
Good luck with your bets!
Teams that have come back from down 3-1 to win their series:
1968 – Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers (Eastern Conference Finals)
1970 – Los Angeles Lakers over Phoenix Suns (Western Conference Finals)
1979 – Washington Bullets over San Antonio Spurs (Eastern Conference Finals)
1981 – Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers (Eastern Conference Finals)
1995 – Houston Rockets over Phoenix Suns (Western Conference Semifinals)
1997 – Miami Heat over New York Knicks (Eastern Conference Semifinals)
2003 – Detroit Pistons over Orlando Magic (Eastern Conference First Round)
2006 – Phoenix Suns over Los Angeles Lakers (Western Conference First Round)