Yesterdays Results: 0-3
All Time Results: 22-26, -1.25 Units
Washington Wizards -3.5 vs. Charlotte Hornets - 1 unit
What a difference a week makes. When these teams last met one week ago on March 8th, the Hornets were still right in the middle of the playoff hunt while the Wizards were an afterthought. Since then the Hornets have been drubbed twice on the road and the Wizards have won two straight at home.
The Hornets were 4.5 point favorites at home against the Wizards in their last game, suggesting they were 1.5 points better than the Wizards. Now the Wizards are favored by 3.5, suggesting they are 0.5 points better. The Wizards have covered their last 6 games, while the Hornets have failed to cover their last 4. I think this market correction is accurate and yet not sufficient to represent the opposite directions these two teams are heading.
The Hornets were favored to make the playoffs throughout the year only to fall short. Over the past two months, they have played like one of their worst teams in the league. Their formula obviously doesn't work and the looming summer forebodes of roster changes, as they attempt to unload some of their more overpaid players. Kemba Walker played out of his mind in Houston last game, dropping 40 on extremely efficient shooting. Yet his performance seemed completely separated from the rest of the team.
On top of the psychological pressures of a lost season, this Hornets squad has begun to break down physically. Injuries will limit or keep out key Hornets tonight, such as Cody Zeller, Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum.
The Wizards and their best player Bradley Beal tell a polar opposite story. Since their horrific start was compounded by the career threatening injury to their highest paid player, John Wall, Washington has somehow found new life. Beal is thriving in his new role as undisputed team leader. The team has successfully incorporated younger, cheaper players like Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis to replace expensive players like Otto Porter and Dwight Howard.
Unlike the Hornets, the Wizards players feel like they are the beginning of something and not the end of something. I like the Wizards to keep it rolling at home.
Philadelphia 76ers -9 vs. Sacramento Kings - .5 units
1. Teams in the playoff hunt are 10-15 ATS on the second night of a back-to-back since the All Star break. With the pressure to stake their claim at playoff seeding, team after team has been proven incapable of maintaining 48 minutes of intense basketball on these tough road trips. The Thunder blowing a 17 point lead in Indiana last night was a perfect example. On their 3rd game in 4 nights, the Kings at some point in this game might let go of the rope.
2. The Kings big men have many strengths: however, containing a physical dynamo like Joel Embiid is not one of them. Embiid will dominate this game and remind the league what a threat he will be if he is playing at his peak come playoff time.
3. The 76ers, who have been off since Tuesday, will not take these Kings for granted after suffering a loss to them on February 2nd.
4. Even though the quotes out of the locker room maintain the playoffs are still the goal - dropping a winnable game in Boston last night after leading by 17 must be brutal on the Kings psychologically. That loss might very well have been the "dreamkiller" game that realistically ended their season long goal. Teams often do not respond well in these circumstances.
Los Angeles Lakers +4 v. Detroit Pistons 1st Quarter - .25 units
1. Since the All Star teams outside of the playoff hunt have been stellar on the 2nd night of a back to back, going 15-3 ATS. My theory is that they are more relaxed than their counterparts in playoff contention - and simply go out there and play instead of worrying about fatigue and the "grind" of the season.
2. The young Lakers tonight will be especially carefree in this second night of a back-to-back. They are finally - at least temporarily - out of the shadow of the "Will LeBron make the Playoffs" media circus. LeBron will be resting in this game, allowing the more unproven Lakers to take center stage. For the first time in over a year, Kyle Kuzma will have complete liberty to lead an offense. With LeBron out, Kuzma dropped 40 against this Detroit team on January 9th.
3. The Pistons have been in a bad funk the past two games and appear to be disconnected in their thought process. While Dwyane Casey lamented a terrible showing in Brooklyn, Blake Griffin said that it was no big deal and they would be back to being themselves the next game. Then the Pistons were blown out again - this time in Miami. Afterward, Griffin admitted he was surprised with the lack of cohesiveness and intensity the team displayed to start the game. They may figure out how to get back to being themselves again this game - however, I expect a nervy start before the Pistons start firing on all cylinders.