NBA Betting: Handicapping the Wizards Down the Stretch
by Robert Ferringo - 4/5/2013
Momentum or mailing it in?
That is really the only question to ask about NBA teams coming down the home stretch of the regular season. Some teams are rounding into postseason form, either setting their rotations, jockeying for playoff positioning and an extra home game, or making a push for one of those precious playoff berths. But right now the good teams are trying to gain momentum so they hit mid-April in full stride.
For the rest of the league, with playoff hopes dashed and offseason plans crystalizing, these last two weeks of the regular season are all about mailing it in. The players are just playing out the string and out there cashing paychecks. The front office is too busy analyzing young players and free agents, preparing for the upcoming draft, and hoping for better draft odds to care about wins and losses, even preferring the latter. And the fans have already moved onto baseball.
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So the incentives are pretty clear for most teams this time of the year. However, the Washington Wizards are a team that has been bucking the normal conventions and should be raising eyebrows among NBA bettors through this dodgy point of the campaign.
While the Wizards have been eliminated from the postseason, I don’t think Washington necessarily cares. For the first time since the organization made four straight postseason appearances from 2005 to 2008, this team is showing signs of life. Washington has gone 17-11 straight up since a Feb. 8 win over Brooklyn, and with eight straight wins at home they have become one of the tougher venues in the East for opponents to get a victory.
Washington is actually 18-4 SU in its last 22 home games. That string started with a seemingly improbable win over Oklahoma City as a 12-point underdog. And since then the Wizards at home has become one of the best bets in the league.
The Wizards are 18-5 against the spread in their last 23 home games and 24-13-1 ATS at home on the season.
Former No. 1 overall pick John Wall has been the linchpin in the second-half surge from the Wizards. Wall, who has missed 33 of Washington’s 75 games this year with a variety of injuries, is having his best season as a pro. He is averaging 17.5 points and 7.7 assists per game. He has cut down on his turnovers, improved his defense, and essentially given up on the three-point shot, and all of that has helped him step to the forefront as the Wizards best player.
Rookie Bradley Beal (13.9 points per game) and journeyman Martell Webster (11.5) have been revelations on the perimeter for the Wizards. Veteran post players Nene, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin have provided solid post play and helped this team become one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the league.
Washington is still horribly inefficient on offense, No. 28 in scoring and No. 29 in shooting. However, they have become an excellent defensive squad. They rank in the Top 7 in points allowed, as well as field goal and three-point defense.
Defense in the NBA is all about effort. And the fact that Washington hasn’t been playing for anything put pride for months but has still fashioned themselves into a top defensive squad tells me that this team is still playing hard and with a sense of purpose.
The Wizards have gone 43-29-1 ATS on the season to become one of the best “bad” bets in the league. That is a sea of change for a franchise that has had four straight seasons of losing backers money, posting an atrocious 126-180 ATS record since the start of the 2008 season. That means NBA bettors simply playing against the Wizards every game for the last four years would have hit at an amazing 59.8 percent rate.
The Wizards have seven games remaining. Three of them are at home, including Saturday’s matchup with Indiana and April 10’s matchup with Miami. Six of Washington’s final seven games come against teams headed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. While they can’t exactly play the role of spoiler and help knock someone out of the postseason, the Wizards can be a team that throws a monkey wrench in the seeding.
Finally, I think Washington may still hold some solid value for backers over these final two weeks. They have nothing to play for. But they are still playing hard. The teams they will be facing will be focusing on the postseason, and I expect many of these clubs to completely overlook what had been a sad sack Wizards squad. As a result, this is a team that should be able to take advantage of some inflated numbers against playoff-bound opponents.
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