When it comes to handicapping the NBA, the postseason is whole different beast. There are several different factors that must be accounted when breaking down the odds.

One of my favorite strategies for betting the postseason in pro hoops is the Zig Zag Theory. Which looks at how each team responds after a loss in their previous game.

For this article I’m going to focus on a 2-0 series lead. The key being the performance against the spread in Game 3 of a series.

The data below goes back to the 2002-03 season and is current with last year’s playoffs.

Look at How Teams Up 2-0 Perform Overall & By Round in NBA Playoffs

Overall

As you can see, teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a series are only covering the spread at a 42.9% (51-68-2) clip.

It makes since that the SU records are equally poor in this spot. More times than not, who won the first two games of a series, did so at home.

Two key factors play into this. First, the team down 0-2 is going to have the motivational edge in Game 3. Second, the oddsmakers are going shade the line in favor of the team up 2-0.

While there’s a slight edge in favor of the over, I see no value in the total.

SUATSO/U
54-67 (44.6%) 51-68-2 (42.9%) 61-58-2 (51.3%)

By Round

The next thing I looked at was whether or not the idea of fading clubs up 2-0 in a series held true across all four rounds.

As you would expect the number of times a team takes a 2-0 lead drops off drastically after the first round. There have been 72 times a team in the first round went up 2-0. The next three rounds combined only produced 49 instances.

For the most part it held up as expected. While the teams up 2-0 in the NBA Finals have performed better against the spread, they are just 1-5 SU.

RoundSUATSO/U
135-37 (48.6%)31-41 (43.1%) 35-35-2 (50.0%)
212-17 (41.1%)12-16-1 (42.9%)16-13 (55.2%)
36-8 (42.9%)5-9 (35.7%)6-8 (42.9%)
41-5 (16.7%)3-2-1 (60.0%)4-2 (66.7%)

Handicapping NBA Teams When Leading 2-0 in the Postseason

By Seed

I also checked how each seed performed in each round. As I’m sure you are aware, there are eight seeds in each conference. In the tables below, I only provided the data for the seeds who have went up 2-0. If a seed isn’t listed they haven’t taken a 2-0 lead in a series.

Opening Round

SeedSUATSO/U
1 12-9 (57.1%) 9-12 (41.9%) 8-12-1 (40.0%)
2 12-7 (63.2%) 11-8 (57.9%) 7-11-1 (38.9%)
3 5-7 (41.7%) 5-7 (41.7%) 8-4 (66.7%)
4 4-9 (30.8%) 4-9 (30.8%) 7-6 (53.8%)
5 2-4 (33.3%) 2-4 (33.3%) 5-1 (83.3%)
6 0-1 (0%) 0-1 (0%) 0-1 (0%)

Conference Quarterfinals

SeedSUATSO/U
1 7-7 (50%) 7-6-1 (53.8%) 7-7 (50.0%)
2 3-7 (30%) 3-7 (30%) 5-5 (50%)
3 2-2 (50%) 2-2 (50%) 3-1 (75%)
4 0-1 (0%) 0-1 (0%) 1-0 (100%)

Conference Championship

SeedSUATSO/U
1 1-6 (14.3%) 1-6 (14.3%) 1-6 (14.3%)
2 4-1 (80%) 3-2 (60.0%) 4-1 (80%)
3 0-1 (0%) 0-1 (0%) 1-0 (100%)
4 1-0 (100%) 1-0 (100%) 0-1 (100%)

NBA Finals

SeedSUATSO/U
1 0-3 (0%) 1-1-1 (50.0%) 2-1 (66.7%)
2 0-1 (0%) 0-1 (0%) 1-0 (100%)
3 1-0 (100%) 1-0 (100%) 0-1 (0%)
4 0-1 (0%) 1-0 (100%) 1-0 (100%)

Home/Away Splits

The last thing I looked at was whether it mattered if a team up 2-0 performed better at home or on the road.

It should come as no surprise, that there have been very few instances where a team has played at home up 2-0 in a series. In order for this to happen, they would have had to win both road games to start a series.

There have only been 10 times that a team has opened up a series 2-0 on the road. They were just 1-4 ATS in the first round. After that it flips, and they are 4-1 ATS. Note that the UNDER is a rock solid 8-2 in this situation.

Opening Round

SiteSUATSO/U
Home1-4 (20.0%)1-4 (20.0%)5-0 (100%)
Away34-33 (50.7%)30-37 (44.8%)30-35-2 (46.2%)

Conference Quarterfinals

SiteSUATSO/U
Home1-0 (100%)1-0 (100%)1-0 (100%)
Away11-17 (39.3%)11-16-1 (40.7%)15-13 (53.6%)

Conference Finals

SiteSUATSO/U
Home4-0 (100%)3-1 (75.0%)2-2 (50.0%)
Away2-8 (20.0%)2-8 (20.0%)4-6 (40.0%)

NBA Finals

SiteSUATSO/U
Home0-00-00-0
Away1-5 (16.7%)3-2-1 (60.0%)4-2 (66.7%)

More NBA Playoff Articles