Mop Up Work: How to Bet the End of the Regular Season

JaVale McGee #00 of the Phoenix Suns. Chris Coduto/Getty Images/AFP

The NHL and NBA playoffs start soon, but first, we need to do some mopping up to finish off the regular season. With motivation levels wildly different among teams fighting for a spot and playing out the string, there are opportunities to clean up for gamblers as well.        

The regular season is wrapping up, and that means very different things, depending on how the season has gone for a team.  

Playoff Spot Fight

Some teams will be fighting for a playoff spot, or to clinch the home court or ice for another round of the playoffs. It’s a desperate time for contenders that are still wondering about their postseason destination.  

Other teams are just playing out the string. Some of them have been all but eliminated from the postseason for more than a month and are just looking to end a lost season. Other teams will be playing for another month or more, but everything it is for them to earn in the postseason has already been taken care of, giving them a game or two to rest up before the second season begins.  

Keeping an eye on vastly different motivation levels can help you to clean up late in the regular season as well, as there are plenty of opportunities to earn for a savvy gambler.  

Taking a Break 

In 2015-16, the Golden State Warriors set the NBA record with 73 regular-season wins. Golden State was undefeated in October and November, went 11-2 in December, 14-2 in January, and 15-2 in March. Then the Warriors lost two games in April—out of seven. Even crazier, after going 36-0 at home in the first six months of the season, Golden State went 3-2 at home in April.  

The following year, Golden State won 67 games and went undefeated for nearly a month, spanning March and early April, before the Warriors were upset at home by the Jazz in the second-to-last game of the season.  

The best teams are usually the best bet in the NBA, but after wrapping up a playoff spot and home-court advantage, often the contenders for a title will rest starters or otherwise take their collective foot off the gas pedal in the final week of the season. When betting late-season games, take records with a grain of salt and look first at what’s left to play for.  

Fighting Their Way In 

On the flip side, teams that have struggled all season will play like world beaters as they try to squeak into the playoffs, or at least the play-in tournament to reach the playoffs. This year, the Hornets and Hawks enter the final work tied for ninth and tenth in the Eastern Conference. After playing 144 combined games this season at a .507 winning percentage (73-71), they have played at a .650 clip (13-7) as they have made a playoff push over the last two weeks.   

What’s in It for Me? 

Then there are the teams that are just playing out the string. The bottom dwellers have been accruing lottery balls all season in the hopes of landing a top draft pick, and now they’re just waiting for the season to end. Sometimes, however, those teams can find motivation late in the year, especially if they’ve got a player to push for an individual award or honor.  

Allen Iverson was probably the poster child for this, as a bad Philadelphia 76ers team pulled out all the stops to make sure he won Rookie of the Year his first season. In April, Iverson had five straight 40-point games, including a 50-point outburst as he had six straight games with 28 or more shot attempts in an effort to put up impressive totals.  

A few years before that, the Spurs pulled out all the stops to get David Robinson the scoring title, as the admiral scored 71 points in the final game to hold off Shaq.  

Look for players who could get some help from their teams for individual honor, both when betting on money lines and point spreads and when looking for individual player prop bets.