How ’90s zig-zag theory fits into modern NBA wagering

LAS VEGAS — The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and that is the time of 12 months once you hear concerning the well-known “zig-zag theory.”

For those that don’t know, that is also called the “loser-of-the-last theory” that claims to guess on the straight-up (SU) loser in its subsequent recreation towards the unfold. This was popularized by the Gold Sheet within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s, and it was gold because the zig-zag theory went a really worthwhile 311-249-10 ATS (55.5 %) from the 1991 NBA playoffs by way of 2000.

The logic behind it’s that groups make changes after they lose or play with added incentive, whereas a workforce isn’t as prone to make changes after a victory (be aware: there’s additionally a faculty of thought that claims longer collection imply greater TV scores and promoting income for the networks and extra money for the NBA itself, and that performed into the zig-zag’s success as nicely).

The development turned extra well-known with the arrival of the web and, as is usually the case with any form of development like this, it dried up as oddsmakers adjusted. It’s been round 50 % over the previous twenty years (and as I hope everyone knows, you need to hit 52.3 % when laying -110 to interrupt even).

Patrick Ewing talked with The Post's Knicks podcast about his time with the Knicks.
Patrick Ewing
AFP through Getty Images

In truth, the zig-zag was a woeful 15-25-2 ATS final 12 months once I stopped retaining monitor in the course of the second spherical. Of course, the 2020 playoffs had been completely different from all others earlier than it because it was performed within the “bubble” in Orlando, Fla., because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I actually consider we will throw these outcomes out the window.

So, whereas I definitely don’t advocate betting the zig-zag blindly anymore, I consider it’s nonetheless related to contemplate it when handicapping the video games, particularly because it nonetheless impacts the way in which oddsmakers set traces as there’s nonetheless loads of folks on the market betting the zig-zag.

The system doesn’t kick in till Game 2 of a collection (because you clearly want a loser of a recreation to deal with). It began this postseason at 1-1 ATS on Monday. The Heat (the SU loser of Game 1 regardless of overlaying ATS) bought blown out by the Bucks as 5-point street underdogs, however then the Nuggets (outright losers of Game 1) routed the Trail Blazers as 2-point residence favorites.

The zig-zag went 1-2 ATS on Tuesday because the Lakers bounced again from their Game 1 loss to the Suns, however the Celtics and Clippers each misplaced their Game 2s to each fall 0-2 behind the Nets and Mavericks, respectively. On Wednesday, the zig-zag went 2-1 ATS to get again to .500 at 4-4 ATS with the Knicks and Jazz night their collection with the Hawks and Grizzlies after shedding Game 1s whereas the Wizards did not cowl towards the 76ers.

If you’re questioning what I meant concerning the zig-zag theory nonetheless impacting traces regardless of its fall from grace, keep in mind that the Lakers had been 2-point underdogs on the Suns in Sunday’s Game 1, however after shedding they had been 2-point street favorites in Game 2 as oddsmakers and bettors seemed for them to bounce again. Another instance: The Jazz had been 8-point favorites after they had been upset by the Grizzlies on Sunday, however they closed as 10-point favorites on Wednesday and zig-zag bettors had been on the successful aspect regardless of having to put the added factors.

Favorites have been doing the most effective with the zig-zag to this point this postseason as they had been 4-1 ATS by way of Wednesday whereas underdogs hadn’t lined but at 0-3 ATS. Home groups had been additionally faring higher at 3-1 ATS whereas street zig-zaggers had been struggling at 1-3 ATS. The zig-zag performs for Thursday would have been Heat +1.5 vs. the Bucks, Suns +6.5 on the Lakers and Blazers -4 vs. the Nuggets, so you possibly can see if these developments have been holding up.

On Friday evening’s card, the zig-zag performs could be the Hawks -4 vs. the Knicks, Celtics +7.5 vs. the Nets and the Clippers -2 on the Mavericks.

As I mentioned earlier than, the zig-zag is now not a system to guess blindly however simply one other factor to issue into your handicapping of the video games. In this area final week, I really helpful ready to guess the Knicks of their collection till Games 3 and 4 in Atlanta as a result of they had been higher on the street this season at 23-13 ATS (63.9 %). I even wrote: “We’re hoping to get about four points, which gives us more wiggle room to cover in what should be close games.” As of Thursday afternoon, the Knicks had been 4-point street ’canine, which has us fading the zig-zag theory on this case.

As for Friday’s different video games, the Celtics are again residence, however I’m passing on them once more after the Nets beat them by 11 and 22 factors within the first two video games, and I used to be on the Mavericks in Games 1 and a pair of and am not about to put factors with the Clippers it doesn’t matter what the zig-zag says.

On Saturday, I can get on board with the Wizards +5.5 vs. the 76ers and Grizzlies +5 vs. the Jazz as zig-zag residence underdogs. The Bucks-Heat and Nuggets-Blazers traces weren’t posted as of deadline as each collection had been having their Game 3 on Thursday evening.

See how these turned out and the way the oddsmakers regulate the traces to see in the event you’ll zig or zag.

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