When handicapping sports, the amount of rest and energy a team or athlete has heading into a game or event should be considered as a key factor in trying to predict the result. With so many statistics and matchups to study and analyze, bettors tend to forget human beings still have to perform, and a bad case of fatigue can trump just about any trend.
In the NBA and NHL, back-to-back games can be extremely fatiguing, even if travel is not involved. Bringing your best effort night in and night out is difficult enough, but performing at such a high level that is expected as a professional athlete with less than 24 hours to rest in between games is even more challenging.
Travel Adds to Fatigue Levels
Adding travel to the mix makes the effects of fatigue even more apparent. Usually NBA and NHL teams will go straight from one game to the next on a road trip, flying into the next town after playing that night in another and will not arrive until very late that day or very early the next.
To make matters worse, if teams travel from the West Coast to the East Coast, they also lose three hours of sleep. Needless to say, getting limited rest on a plane and/or in a hotel room does not bode well for trying to perform well in the second game of back-to-back matchups. Lack of rest often translates to lack of energy.
While playing back-to-back games is perhaps the most obvious cause of fatigue in the NBA and NHL, teams can also be scheduled for three games in four nights or four games in six nights. Even if players are able to catch up on some sleep, the wear and tear on their bodies over stretches of games without much rest definitely adds up.
As sports handicappers and bettors, always be aware of whether teams played the night before or are near the end of a brutal stretch of games. If you believe they could have a fatigue-induced letdown, it might be wise to consider fading them. Just keep in mind that potential fatigue is likely factored into a line by oddsmakers, especially when teams are on road trips, so make sure you are getting a fair price before betting.
When to Back Fatigued Teams
However, there are a couple of situations in which you might consider backing potentially fatigued teams, either on the second night of a back-to-back or in the midst of a long road trip. In the former example, a team playing for the second straight night could have an advantage over an opponent coming off a long layoff that may be rusty.
Likewise, in the latter example, sometimes teams bond and find their groove during a road trip and might be playing opponents that just returned home from an extended stretch away themselves. This is a common betting system in baseball, fading the home team – and many times the favorite – in the first game back following a long road trip.