NBA Basketball Betting: Top 'Under' Teams as of November 14, 2019

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:

We’ll wrap up our overview of NBA basketball betting tendencies by looking at the teams that have played the most games ‘Under’ the total as of November 14, 2019.  You might want to take a look at the previous entries, particularly our discussion of the biggest ‘Over’ teams in the NBA.  We had some general observations of NBA totals that you might find valuable.

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To quickly summarize—the linesmaker’s goal with totals is similar to his goal with a team’s pointspread performance:  equilibrium.  You’re no doubt aware that the fundamental concept of bookmaking is attracting the same amount of money on each side of a betting proposition.   This is easier said than done, of course, but that’s the basic business model.  A sportsbook takes bets on each side of a game at 11/10 (110 to win 100), they pay the winners and return their initial stake and they pocket the ‘vig’ as their operating profit.

Betting NBA totals is trying to hit a moving target.  A team that plays a lot of games ‘Under’ will likely have their totals adjusted downward.  A team that frequently goes ‘Over’ will have their totals adjusted accordingly.  So far this season, however, there hasn’t been as much adjustment as you’d expect.  There’s a number of reasons why this is happening—it could be as simple as the majority of the sports betting world being focused on NFL and college football meaning that the NBA is a secondary priority for bookmakers.  It could also be that linesmakers are having a hard time coming up with the right valuations for teams.


DENVER NUGGETS (2 OVER, 8 UNDER):  The Nuggets’ ‘Under’ performance is somewhat surprising simply because they’re not doing anything unexpected.  They were a defensively oriented team last year and that’s continued over to this season.  In 2018-2019, the Nuggets had the #6 team defense in basketball allowing 106.7 PPG.  So far this season, they’ve got the #4 defense in the NBA giving up 102.8 PPG.  That’s nearly 4 PPG fewer but this year over year differential isn’t something that would blindside bookmakers.  Last year, the had the #20 scoring offense in the NBA putting up 110.7 PPG.  This year they’ve got the #27 scoring offense in the NBA scoring 105.1 PPG.  One thing that we have observed to date is that the range of scoring averages is wider—at least for the time being.  For the 2018-2019 NBA season, points scored per game ranged from the Milwaukee Bucks 118.1 PPG at the top and the Memphis Grizzlies 103.5 PPG at the bottom.  So far this season, the top end performances are similar with the Bucks once again leading the way with a 119.9 PPG average.  The lowest scoring teams are averaging much less so far this year than for the full season last year such as the Orlando Magic (99.4 PPG) and the New York Knicks (99.5 PPG).  This would provide something of an explanation were it not for the fact that the Magic and Knicks are such big outliers.  Throw out these two teams and the lowest scoring team in the league is the Utah Jazz at 104.5 giving us pretty close to the same top to bottom range as last year.  For the entire 2018-2019 season, team defense performance ranged from the Indiana Pacers giving up just 104.7 PPG to the defensively porous Atlanta Hawks giving up 119.4 PPG.  So far this year, the range is much wider with the best defensive teams giving up less than 100 points (the Orlando Magic at 99.1 PPG against, the Utah Jazz 99.5 PPG against) and the worst teams giving up more than 120 PPG (the New Orleans Pelicans are giving up 122.4 PPG).  This could be a trend that continues throughout the season or it could correct itself as teams play more games.  For now, Denver looks like a team capable of continuing their ‘Under’ bias.

UTAH JAZZ (3 OVER, 8 UNDER):  The Utah Jazz are one of two other teams that have played 8 games ‘Under’ the total.  The other is the New York Knicks which has been a mediocre team defensively (110.3 for #15 in the league) but a horrible team offensively (99.5 PPG, #29 in the league).  It’s unclear whether the Knicks are better on defense or are just trying to slow tempo out of desperation.  For that reason, we’ll focus on Utah which is clearly among the nastiest defensive teams in the league.  Credit to the Jazz management for understanding the team’s skillset and building on it during the offseason.  Utah was an excellent defensive team last year giving up 106.5 PPG good for #4 in the league.  Their defense is built around Rudy Gobert, back to back reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year.  Many teams would have been content with such a strong defensive performance and figure that they should turn their focus to offense.  The Jazz, on the other hand, made it their offseason focus to clamp down on opponents even more.  They’re currently the #2 team defense in the NBA giving up just 99.5 PPG.  It appears that team defense is coming back in vogue to some extent, no doubt influenced by LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers who are very good at containing opponents by holding them to 100.9 PPG.  The Jazz are worth watching but it isn’t clear if linesmakers have found some equilibrium with their totals or if Utah is just in a defensive ‘mini-slump’.  They went ‘Under’ in 7 straight to start the season but have now gone ‘Over’ in 3 of their last 4 games.  Utah won all four so they could conclude that this offensive/defensive balance is better for them tactically.  In the short term, they might reel off a few more ‘Over’ games but this defense will be solid all year long. 

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Utah has lost eight of their last nine road games by no less than 8 points and are a +10 dog in their game this evening vs. a T'Wolves after losing badly in Memphis last night vs. a Grizzlies team that is discriminated with injuries.