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NBA Betting Odds Explained

NBA games can be one of the most intense games to throw down on point spreads, with the final 2 minutes of game time sometimes turning into a 10 minute nail biter where every timeout, foul and 3-pointer ends up making a difference. What might be a meaningless free throw or layup in terms of game result might be the difference between winning or losing against the spread.

How to read NBA Odds

Both NBA Moneylines and NBA Spreads will have numbers like -10.5 for the favored team, with the minus in front signifying that the team is the favorite. A team with a +12.5 or any plus symbol in front implies that the team is the underdog and generally considered more likely to lose.

How to read NBA Moneylines

Moneyline betting is also known as outright betting or picking the winner. The numbers will usually range from -115 to -2000 in extreme cases. The favored team will have a negative in front (like -170), with the underdog having a positive number in front (like +300). It will look something like this:

Los Angeles Lakers -200 vs. New York Knicks +250

In this case the Lakers are the favorite because of the negative number shown up front in comparison to the Knicks. Seeing -200 means that you have to risk $200 to win $100 in profit. Now you don't have to actually wager $200, but it is telling you that the payout will be half of whatever you wager. This is because like you, most people think the Lakers will win, so the payout is reduced.

With the Knicks, seeing +250 means that for each $100 wagered, you'll make $250 in profit. In the case of seeing positive moneyline odds, it is always indexed off a $100 wager, and the number shown is the profit you'd make from that $100.

What is an NBA Over/Under (Total)

Also known as betting the total, in the NBA this is a fairly straightforward wager compared to other sports because there's no chance of a tie making things complicated. What this will usually look like:

Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks - O/U 210.5

What this is saying is that in order to win, both teams have to combine for a game score of 211 points or higher. It doesn't actually matter which team scores the points or even wins, it just matters that when the game is over and done, the two totals when added up work out to 211 or higher.

So what happens if the game goes into overtime? No difference, it really doesn't matter how long it takes for the game to end, or how many overtimes the game goes into, it's just the final score that matters.

What is an NBA Point Spread

The point spread is where lopsided games get interesting. You can take a side in the meta game that a team sitting dead last at 15th in the eastern conference won't get blown out by 20 or more tonight, or that the favored side will easily deliver a huge win. An NBA point spread will typically look something like this:

Los Angeles Lakers -3.5 vs. New York Knicks +3.5

With a point-spread line of 3.5, the Knicks must win the game straight up or lose by three points or less to cover the spread and be considered a win against the spread. On the other hand, the Lakers must win by at least four points to cover and pickup the win against the spread.

When a team has a point spread line with a minus sign (-), it means that the team must win the game by more points than what is shown in the line. When you see a positive (+), it means the team can either win straight up, or lose by less than what is shown, in order to count as a win against the spread.