Using the Motivation Factor in the NBA Playoffs

While it's true that all teams should be motivated in the playoffs. It's not hard at all to find situations where one team is more motivated than the other to win THAT night. Often that's tied to a "bounce back" situation…where the previous loser is going to find peak intensity while the previous winner takes its foot off the gas (the key to why the zig-zag worked for so many years). But, the later you get in an early-round series, it could also be because the superior team is ready to close things out why the lesser team is ready to play golf (which is a big part of what killed the zig-zag).

I'm 4-1 the past few days on my service selections. Making proper use of THE MOTIVATION FACTOR was an important part of that 80% run.

TUESDAY
Philadelphia (-10) beat Miami 104-91
I was confident the Sixers were ready to close out the series with a 3-1 lead…and that Miami realized it had NO CHANCE to come all the way back to win. The Sixers had been dominant since Joel Embiid returned to the lineup. A young team was feeling its oats and ready to put on a show for the home fans. The outmanned visitor was ready to call it a season and go home.

Golden State (-11) only beat San Antonio 99-91 (point spread loser)
I missed this one, but thought it was the right call. Golden State was in a bounce-back spot after an embarrassing loss over the weekend down in Texas. The Spurs had played their inspirational game for their head coach, but still realized a series rally had zero chance of happening. Unfortunately, the Warriors didn't bring enough intensity to win easily. They were pacing themselves (too much in my view) for the long haul. If I was the head coach (nothing against Steve Kerr), the Warriors would have won that game by 20. I was prioritizing that game a lot more than Kerr was!

WEDNESDAY
Indiana (+6) covered in a 98-95 loss at Cleveland
Could have been a straight up winner if the refs had the courage to call an obvious goal tend. My clients and I get the money anyway. Indiana was coming off a home loss that evened up the series, and knew they had to bring everything in Game Five. Smart bet on a value underdog that's been cashing tickets for weeks.

Indiana/Cleveland Under 205.5 wins with a 193 scoring total
Overtime could have burned us here. Sometimes you can bet a total with THE MOTIVATION FACTOR as well. Indiana was going to play more intense defense in my view. They did, forcing 14 turnovers instead of just 10 the prior game, while holding Cleveland to worse shooting on both two and three-pointers. If your read of THE MOTIVATION FACTOR involves more intense defense, look at the Under. If it involves pushing pace and playing more aggressively on offense, look at the Over.

THURSDAY
Milwaukee (-4) beat Boston wins 97-86
The Bucks have played better at home in this series, though they blew a lead in Game Four that prevented a cover. I didn't think that would happen to them again. I liked the Bucks at home in this must-win spot against a Boston team that's spotty even when playing hard. If Boston relaxes, it might as well be Brooklyn or Atlanta given how poorly it plays (with Kyrie Irving lost for the season). This was a solid read, with Milwaukee peaking in THE MOTIVATION FACTOR while Boston took its foot off the gas.

Your homework for this weekend is to set up a framework that FORCES you to consider THE MOTIVATION FACTOR in every game. It's important not to jump to conclusions, or assume that the team your gut likes will naturally be motivated. It's easy to talk yourself into narratives that aren't actually happening.

Ask yourself these questions.

*Will the team that won the prior game take its foot off the gas? Do they have a history of doing that in past playoffs?

*Will the team that won the prior game fall prey to overconfidence? That can happen to young teams. (It happened to Philadelphia in Game Two vs. Miami with an outright loss, but didn't happen at all to New Orleans in a series sweep of Portland.)

*Does the team that lost the prior game have a track record of bouncing back strong?

*Does that last-game-loser have the talent to express that emotion? Or, are they so outmatched by this opponent that MOTVIATION doesn't really matter?

*If the pre-series underdog is facing an elimination game, does it strike you as a "throw in the towel" team, or a "never-say-die" team? You'll confront this issue often every season, and countless times over your full handicapping career. You better develop an eye for recognizing when a team is about to give up! Oddsmakers have no way to price for that once it starts happening.

If you'd like some help finding basketball (and baseball) winners this week, 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 office by calling office at 1-800-755-2255 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 greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. The fact that you keep coming back tells me these strategies have been working for you. At the very least, they help you clean up leaks in your game. At best, they're turning you into a world-class sports bettor. See you again next week. Classes run Mondays and Fridays right here at your favorite website.