Does LeBron James have anything left? That’s the question heading into the NBA Finals. James played all 48 minutes in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics. The four-time MVP has logged 743 of a possible 864 playoff minutes after playing 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career. Reminder, the Cavs superstar is 33 years old and in his 15th season.
LeBron must be tired, but in Game 1 of the Finals (Thursday 9 p.m. ET), he will have a rest advantage over the Golden State Warriors. After closing out the Celtics on Sunday, the Cavs have enjoyed four days to recover while the Warriors are on three days’ rest.
Do teams with more time to recover perform better against the spread (ATS) in the playoffs?
Since the 2005 playoffs, there have been 54 games where one team has four or more days between games and the opponent has three or fewer, In those contests, teams with more time to rest and recover are 30-23-1 (56.6%) ATS.
This is a small sample, but it makes sense that teams with extra time between games would have an advantage. If this theory is true, then bettors should have an edge wagering on rested teams in the regular season as fatigue becomes an issue down the stretch.
As the season progresses, it has been profitable to bet rested teams when they face a tired opponent. In the second half of the season, the rested team covers the spread 52.9% of the time compared to 49.1% before game 42. And to drive the point home, in the last month of the regular season when fatigue is of greatest concern, the team with more rest has gone 69-41-3 (62.7%) ATS.
Rest is important, especially late in the season, and the team with more time to recover has an edge. Does this mean LeBron and the Cavs will cover the spread in Game 1? No, but they also shouldn’t be overlooked as 12.5-point underdogs.