There are so many ways to bet an NBA game, but for those bettors who can’t bear to sweat the full 48 minutes, there are other markets that offer more instant satisfaction. One of those markets is the Race to 15 Points. It’s as simple as the name suggests: The first team to hit 15 points cashes the bet.
The great thing about making first to 15 bets is the teams that are interesting don’t have to be the ones that win games. They just need to be able to score and fast. The two bets we’re targeting for Friday’s slate of games are both plus-money picks from teams that have struggled overall this season.
Here’s a look at Friday’s first to 15 odds and picks.
New York Knicks vs. Washington Wizards
|First to 15 Odds||Knicks: -146 | Wizards: +114|
|Time | TV||7 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
This bet is as much about the Wizards as it is about the Knicks.
I mentioned in the last installment of the column that the Wizards thrive at home, covering the First to 15 in 73.7% of their homes games, despite having played the second-fewest homes games this season. They also reach 15 points faster than every team in the NBA but the Nuggets. Now they are in the midst of a four-game stretch at home with the Knicks visiting Capital One Arena.
The Knicks’ road splits in this respect are stark: At home they are the second-best team in the Race to 15 Standings, but they are 22nd. At home, the Knicks average 30.6 points in first quarters, but that dips to 27.8 on the road.
There isn’t a logical reason for the Knicks to favorites on the road when the data points to the Wizards as the team that consistently starts faster. I think there’s real value on the Wizards at +114.
Orlando Magic vs. Utah Jazz
|First to 15 Odds||Magic: +114 | Jazz: -146|
|Time | TV||9 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass|
The Magic are a team that I would typically be looking to fade for first to 15 bets, but at these odds, I’m intrigued. The Jazz are playing at home, which you would expect to be a significant edge for them. A closer look at the data says otherwise, though.
In the Race to 15 Standings, the Jazz are 20-24 overall and just 10-10 at home. They also allow opposing teams to reach 15 points at the seventh-fastest rate in the NBA. The Magic are actually better in this respect on the road than they are at home with a 10-10 record away from Amway Center compared to an 8-14 record at home. The Magic also score slightly more on the road (28.3, +0.4 point differential) in the first quarter compared to their home games (27.7, -1.0 differential).
This is another case where the data just doesn’t point toward the Jazz being heavy favorites. If anything, this should be closer to a coin flip and I’ve got to fade the Jazz and bet the Magic in this spot.