The NBA has been featuring games on Christmas Day pretty much since its start. The teams for these games are not fixed like the NFL on Thanksgiving. Instead, the league chooses some of the best matchups of players and teams to showcase.
But here's the real question. How can we use this information to our advantage when betting these games?
My theory was that NBA games on Christmas Day will go UNDER the total more often than not due to a few simple variables.
NBA Unders on Christmas Day
The NBA goes out of its way to feature some of the better teams in the league. For example, the teams that met in the Finals last year almost always meet on Christmas Day.
This means that both teams are going to be motivated to prove themselves. That motivation translates into defensive intensity. More intensity translates into tougher shots for the opposite. That would lead to lower scoring.
A different idea is the complete opposite of our motivation theory. Would the teams rather be home with their families? If so then they might be sluggish or disinterested on the court.
Finally, prime time games like these almost always take in more public action than a typical NBA game.
The betting public favors the over. There is more action from the public on prime time games. The oddsmakers adjust the total up to account for the extra action. This gives us a few points of advantage to the under.
Do the historical numbers support our theory?
I looked at the odds and results of each NBA game played on Christmas Day since 2005. What I found was a significant number of those games ended up going under their set total.
The Under for Christmas Day games is an impressive 30-19-1 (61.2%)! Not only that, but they have gone under the total on average by over 6 points per game!
The other variable I wanted to check was conference v. non-conference games. This includes teams that played in the Finals the year before and top tier teams from both conferences squaring off. These are marquee games between teams that don't play against each other often.
In these games, the under is even better, hitting 17-4 since 2005! On average, games in this situation stayed under the posted total by over 8 points!
I don't love drawing conclusions from small sample sizes. But, the number of points the games have gone under adds some credibility to the data.
If you are looking at the NBA odds for Christmas day don't forget about the totals.