Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 9:00 AM
If you watch a lot of NBA Playoff action on TV, you’ll often here TV announcers and the talking heads in studios talk about the enormous power of home court advantage in the playoffs. Loud, boisterous fans are the “sixth man” that intimidate opponents and officials. They’ll tell you home court is worth a lot more in the playoffs than in the regular season because houses are packed and the action is so intense.
While you will occasionally find teams who overachieve on their home floors, most of what those TV announcers are telling you is just hype. Home court advantage is still worth about three points per game in the playoffs. It may “feel” like more in home blowouts. But, for every home blowout there’s usually a road blowout where a league superpower grabs the game by the throat right away and never lets up.
Golden State went 15-0 to start the playoffs last season before losing one at Cleveland. Did everybody else’s home courts bother them at all?
Home court doesn’t turn anybody else into Golden State. It doesn’t turn star players on road teams into G-League caliber scrubs.
Here are some situations where it “might,” and I emphasize MIGHT be worth more than four points.
*In evenly matched series that involve long trips between sites. The players on New Orleans and Portland will pick up some air miles…and that’s expected to see some competitive basketball. Maybe there will be an eight-point spread differential from city to city (meaning the market sees a home court advantage four points at each rather than three).
*Whenever other “intangible” factors (part of THE MOTIVATION FACTOR that we often talk about) happen to point to a home team…THEN on THAT NIGHT, home court might be worth more than three points. The host is in a must-win situation…the visitor is in a letdown spot…a star player is returning from an injury or suspension…the refs were one-sided against a team in the last game, and the new crew knows it needs to equalize. Home court will sometimes serve as a temporary “magnifier” of intangibles for one game, then return to its normal value the next time out.
*When a veteran host is facing a “young” visitor. Inexperienced NBA players have to learn how to avoid letting road fans get to them. This can be an issue in the first round when a playoff newcomer isn’t ready for the challenge ahead of them. Veteran teams aren’t bothered at all. Well, they can still lose road games…but it’s not because the opposing crowd has rattled them. With young visitors, the opposing crowd CAN rattle them. Be on the lookout for that through the rest of the first round, and beyond if any young teams advance to the second round.
Possibly the most important thing to remember is that home court advantage might be worth a big fat ZERO if the host has thrown in the towel on the series. We talked about that angle in last week’s coursework. When the series trailer has lost the will to fight, playing at home won’t give them any sort of boost. You’ll hear your buddies say “there’s no way that team is going to not show up in front of their home crowd.” Then it will be 40-20 early in the second quarter as the visitor ready to wrap up the series takes care of business.
Teams with little hope to rally from behind are ready to go play golf, no matter how much their fans had to pay for playoff tickets.
Your homework this week is to come up with a number that best represents true home court value for all 16 teams in the first round. Don’t give anybody a five or a six because you believe there’s some sort of magic intangible about the site that is worth that much. This is the NBA. All courts have the same dimensions. Three-point shooters won’t be caught by surprise by weird shooting backdrops, which you’ll see at the college level.
Your worst home court value should be 2.5 points. Your highest should be 4 points. Then, stick with those unless one of those unique “intangible” situations happens to apply (or heavy travel). And, use the same numbers for the eight survivors in the second round, and the conference and league championship contenders at the very end.
This will prevent you from falling prey to media hype. And, will keep you focused on the right factors as you handicap day-to-day. When you’ve been betting in Las Vegas as long as I have, you learn that every bad bet you don’t make is just as valuable as every smart bet that you do make. What separates winners from losers in this city is the ability to avoid pot holes (which is true in actual driving, as traffic in Las Vegas is worse than it’s ever been!)
If you’d like some help finding basketball (and baseball) winners this weekend, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. I do have great rates for extended packages that go through the NBA Playoffs, the MLB all-star break, or the full baseball season.
The Dean of Sports Handicapping is pleased that so many of you have been attending our new twice-a-week sessions. I’ll be back with you Monday afternoon with some thoughts on baseball. Our next basketball class will be a week from today. For now, remember that the most important “home court” or “home field” advantage enjoyed in sports betting is the one belonging to Kelso Sturgeon direct from Las Vegas!