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Does playing in the second game of a back to back set affect a team's performance against the spread?

Most of us have heard the statement that NBA teams playing in the second game of a back to back set have a tougher time winning. As I showed in another article, this really isn't true. The fact is that NBA teams don't play significantly worse in the second game of back to back games. But how do they fare against the spread in these games? Does the prevailing thought that they do play worse during these games affect the line of those games?

I collected data from the start of the 2001 season through the 2002 seaosn and the following table shows the results.

Back to Back Set Win % ATS
home/road 53.4
road/home 48.4
road/road 46.0
home/home 50.0
second game overall 49.0

From an overall standpoint it doesn't look like there is any advantage to playing the home or road team in the second game of a back to back set. But when we break it down into the individual sets, we see some slight trends, and both occur when the second game is played on the road.

When a team played a home/road back to back set, they covered the spread in 53.4% of the second games. This percentage really isn't significant and probably isn't big enough to use on a regular basis. But it is something that should be kept in mind when placing a bet. It appears that the betting public overestimates how much playing the second game of a back to back hurts this team.

The second case is when a team played a road/road back to back set, which is also the most common type of back to back set. In the second game of these sets, the road team covered only 46% of the time. Again, this isn't a trend we would want to bet every time, but it is something we should take note of before placing a bet. In this case, it looks like the betting public does not account for how difficult it is to play two road games on consecutive nights.

It looks like the back to back factor really shouldn't play much of a part in your betting decision. Just check to see if the road team is playing in the second game of a back to back and maybe make a slight adjustment based on that.

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