An In-Depth Guide to Understanding How to Bet NBA Totals

We’re going to teach you how betting NBA totals works in this guide. We’ll also discuss tips for betting on NBA totals, examine league scoring averages in recent seasons and more.

The most popular way for betting NBA totals is the full game (game total), but basketball fans can also bet on halves (1st and 2nd) and quarters (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th). There are also team totals for the full game, halves and quarters, plus alternate NBA totals, which offer the potential for bigger payouts.

Most basketball bettors don’t realize how many ways there are for betting NBA totals nowadays.

Betting NBA Totals – Understanding the Odds

For those completely new to betting NBA totals, we’re going to explain how the bet works.

Here’s an example of an NBA game total:

  • Pacers vs. Knicks: Over 235.5 Points (-110) vs. Under 235.5 Points (-110)

In this example, the game total is set at 235.5 points. You need to predict whether both teams will score over or under 235.5 points combined. If you bet on the over, you’ll win if both teams combine to score 236+ points. If you bet on the under, you’ll win if both teams score 235 or fewer points.

Generally, the NBA odds will always be -110/-110 for the over and under, but the odds can shift slightly. If the odds are -110, it means you need to bet $11 to win $10. Overtime counts when betting NBA totals.

In some cases, NBA game totals will be a whole number, such as over/under 234 points. If a total is a whole number, there’s a chance for the bet to tie (push). If both teams combine to score exactly 234 points, the bet is a push and the amount you staked (bet) will be returned to your balance.

Betting Game, Halves, and Quarters with NBA Totals

When it comes to betting NBA totals, there are a lot of markets available at the top NBA betting sites.

Here’s a full breakdown of the NBA total betting markets:

  • Full Game: Bet on the full game total (overtime included) or alternate totals. There is more vig (juice) on alternate totals, but you can get plus money odds. For example, if a game total is 241 points, you could bet an alternate total of over 250.5 points (+200) at much better odds. Bettors can also wager on full game NBA team totals where you only bet on one team’s score.
  • Halves: There are 1st half and 2nd half totals to bet on in the NBA. If you bet on a 1st half total, only points scored in the 1st half will count towards the bet. You’ll also have the opportunity to wager on alternate totals and team totals for either of the halves. Unless stated otherwise, bets on the 2nd half will include overtime scoring when it comes to grading the bets.
  • Quarters: There are also NBA totals betting markets available for each quarter. Do you expect a lot of points in the first quarter? Bet the over for the 1st quarter only rather than the full game. It’s also popular to bet on full game totals with halves and quarters. If things go according to how you handicap the game, you could hit multiple totals bets on the same game and win more money.
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Live Betting NBA Totals

Every game will have live betting NBA totals available to bettors. Some fans want to watch the action to start a game before placing bets. Some handicappers look for +EV middling opportunities. For example, you bet over 241.5 points pregame. After a fast start, the live line moves to over/under 255.5 points. If you expect scoring to slow down, you can bet under 255.5 points and try to hit a middle.

If you have bets on over 241.5 points and under 255.5 points, the final score can land between 242 and 255 and you’ll win both bets. However, trying to middle can turn a winning wager into a loss.

Live betting NBA totals allows fans to take advantage of various situations, such as injuries, streaks (hot and cold) and more. For example, if a superstar leaves a game early due to injury, there’s a good chance there will be less scoring the rest of the game and betting the under live could offer value.

NBA Scoring Is on the Rise

NBA scoring has been on the rise in recent years. Between the 2014-15 and 2020-21 seasons, scoring increased every season. Teams averaged 100.0 PPG in 2014-15 and 112.1 PPG in 2020-21.

Last season, teams averaged 114.7 PPG and that has increased to 115.6 PPG so far this season.

NBA totals have also been on the rise to balance the increased scoring. Back in 2010, the average NBA total was 199.0 points, but by 2021, the average NBA total shot up to 220.4 points. Now it’s common to see totals in the 230-250 point range and we’re still seeing about a 50% split for overs and unders.

So far during the 2023-24 NBA season, the over has hit 50.2% of the time (49.8% unders).

Tips for Betting NBA Totals

Betting NBA totals is exciting. Every possession matters. Rather than betting on a team to win or cover, where you can only cheer on one team, totals allow you to cheer for or against both teams.

Here are some tips for betting NBA totals:

  • Track Trends: Some teams score more points than average. Some teams play better defense than the league average. Track NBA over/under trends to identify the top teams to bet on over and the top teams to bet on under. For example, during the 2022-23 season, the Spurs led the NBA with the best over record (48-33-1 / 58.5%). Betting over on all Spurs games was profitable.
  • Consensus Reports: Check whether the public is betting on the over or under in a game. We have consensus reports for our members that also track what the sharps are betting on.
  • Pace and Efficiency: When analyzing statistics for a game, pace and efficiency are two of the most important metrics when betting NBA totals. More possessions leads to more points. Two fast paced teams will typically score more points than two slower paced teams.
  • Referee Statistics: NBA referee statistics are available online. Some refs will call more fouls than the league average and their games will often lean to having more points because of that.
  • Rest: In the NBA, teams playing on a back-to-back (games on consecutive nights) will generally score less points and allow more points because they’re not rested. NBA players often take off nights for rest as well. Analyze the starting lineups before placing any bets.

Betting NBA totals is popular and can potentially be profitable if you put in the work to research. Keep all of your options open (utilize multiple NBA totals betting markets) and utilize data to identify winners.

About the Author
Joe Berra
Joe Berra
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Joe takes care of the bits and pieces that sometimes slip through the cracks of the sports world. Efficiency and consistency is what makes different. JB helps keep Sports Hub’s content fresh and exciting, managing its many authors. From the New York area, Joe knew he had a knack for sports betting when his uncle was always asking him which side he was on as a young boy. His meticulous approach to the numbers formed his career path as a professional handicapper. Joe is sometimes called Jimmy Bagpipes, JB or Mr. B.