The Washington Wizards have been a fun team to follow in January, as they turned around after a very slow start and now look completely healthy – and rather dangerous.
Forgotten by many just over a month ago, John Wall and co. are in top form and looking to shake things up for the remainder of the year. They can really start making some noise on Friday night, when a win over the hated Atlanta Hawks could get them to within one game of first place in the Southeast Division.
Our title already tells us if we think they’ll get there, but read on for a complete breakdown of Friday’s NBA slate, as well as our free NBA picks:
Sacramento Kings (+4)
Indiana Pacers (-4)
A tired Pacers squad returns home to Indiana tonight, as they take on the Kings and try to get their second win in a row.
The Kings will be a little more fresh and have a two-game run of their own going. Sacramento may be a little tough to trust in this spot, however, seeing how they struggle on the road (10-14) and the Pacers tend to take care of business (16-6) on their home floor.
Both teams are looking good judging by their recent games, but the Kings continue to be shorthanded with Rudy Gay (Achilles) done for the year. The Pacers won the earlier meeting this year (106-100), but the Kings had taken the previous four meetings. We should brace for a tightly contested battle, but the Pacers are at home and have too much offensive ammo. In a game with little defense, we like the Pacers to get it done at home.
Orlando Magic (n/a)
Boston Celtics (n/a)
We still don’t have any betting information for this contest at TD Garden, as the Magic still don’t know the status of star shooting guard, Evan Fournier. Fournier missed practice on Thursday and doesn’t seem likely to suit up in Boston.
Fournier’s return would be very much welcomed, as the Magic are already playing without bench scorer Jodie Meeks and have been struggling lately (2-8 over their last 10 games). Fournier’s continued absence will likely slide Jeff Green into the starting lineup and will put added pressure on the rest of the offense.
That’s bad news for a road game against a very strong Celtics team. Boston is a solid 14-8 at TD Garden this year and has held the upper hand lately (won 3 of the last 4 meetings) in this series. They still won’t be getting star shooting guard Avery Bradley back, but they should be strong enough overall to get the win at home tonight.
Brooklyn Nets (+14.5)
Cleveland Cavaliers (-14.5)
We all thought Tuesday’s contest with the Kings was going to be the game where the Cavs snapped out of their funk and had LeBron James’ tongue-lashing kick in. That didn’t happen and now they’ll have to find a way to snap a three-game skid at home against the Nets.
Brooklyn isn’t a real threat due to their atrocious road record (2-19), while they also don’t really have a point guard to confide in right now. Suffice to say, the Cavs are big favorites for a reason. They’re still a blistering 19-5 at home and are 5-1 in the last six meetings in this series. Hopefully the Cavs finally wake up and cover here.
Milwaukee Bucks (n/a)
Toronto Raptors (n/a)
This is another game with no betting numbers to lean on yet, as the Raptors are likely still without star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan again:
On the off chance DMR does suit up, the Raptors will probably sport a bigger line. Toronto has visibly struggled without their top scorer, as they’ve dropped five in a row and are just 4-6 over their last 10 games. The good news is they’ll be at home (where they’re 15-8) and get a Bucks team that they’ve taken down in six straight meetings.
None of that sounds particularly great for the Bucks, who have not been in a good flow lately (3-7 over their last 10 contests) and struggle on the road (8-13 away from the Bradley Center). The Bucks did earn a surprising win over the Rockets earlier in the week but have been otherwise subpar for the past two weeks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo needs to dominate this game for the Bucks to win, but that’s a tall order with defensive ace DeMarre Carroll likely draping him all game. Milwaukee could keep it close, but this looks like a solid spot for the Raps to get back to their winning ways, with or without DeRozan.
Charlotte Hornets (-1)
New York Knicks (+1)
We get another interesting Eastern Conference clash tonight, as the Hornets travel to the Madison Square Garden to battle the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony trade rumors are still hanging over the Knickerbockers, but they are still in the playoff picture.
There is downside here, of course, as Kristaps Porzingis has not been a full go due to elbow and Achilles issues, while New York has been sluggish (3-7 over their last 10 games), overall. Their home dominance has wilted over the last month, too as they’re now just 12-11 on the year at MSG.
Kemba Walker and the Hornets won’t be the least bit scared, as they’ve taken care of business for the most part in this series (won 7 of the last 9 meetings). Charlotte is all over the place just like the Knicks, but they offer tighter defense and have been better on the year, overall. We like the Hornets about as much as Vegas – which isn’t much. However, the Knicks are impossible to trust right now.
Houston Rockets (n/a)
Philadelphia 76ers (n/a)
Here’s another game in doubt still when it comes to NBA betting numbers, as Joel Embiid is set to return but hasn’t been officially listed as a starter for tonight’s contest just yet:
Brett Brown tells WIP he worked Joel Embiid out for a bit today. Things moving in positive direction. No decision yet for tomorrow.
The team has suggested Embiid could suit up tonight, but we probably won’t know until later in the day. Jahlil Okafor is even more in doubt, as he’s listed as doubtful with a lingering knee issue. That keeps a freeze on the betting info here, while we need to pause and consider how Philly has been playing, regardless of Embiid’s status (8-2 over their last 10 games).
This team is on fire right now and even if Embiid is out they’ll have the services of big man Nerlens Noel, who has started and chipped in two solid performances in two straight wins. Combine that with Houston’s weird slump recently (just 4-6 over their last 10 games) and it’s fair to wonder if Philly can keep this torrid run going.
For Houston, the only issue could be bench scorer Eric Gordon, who has been dealing with a back issue. He missed the team’s last game and forced Sam Dekker into extended action. It’s unclear if Gordon will be able to take the floor tonight.
Embiid’s status is probably the kicker here, but either way, it’s tough to go against James Harden and the Rockets. Houston is a little more vulnerable on the road and we do need to take this hot Sixers run seriously, but they’re the far better team. We’re rolling with the Rockets in what could be a shootout.
Washington Wizards (+4)
Atlanta Hawks (-4)
One thing we’re not doing anymore is doubting John Wall and these Wizards. Wall is playing lights out basketball these days and the Wiz just keep on killing, having now gone a blistering 8-2 in their last 10 games. They do have a tough test on their hands in Atlanta, of course, as the Hawks are a solid 13-9 at home and have been just as hot (7-3 over their last 10 games).
Wall and the Wiz look like the better team these days, as they can really push the pace and score the ball from a number of areas. Atlanta lacks the scoring upside, but tends to play tighter defense and can be a different monster on their home floor.
With no real injuries heading into this one, it’s a straight up matchup that anyone could take. Looking back at the series history, this has been an extremely back and forth matchup, with the two sides splitting the last 8 meetings right down the middle (4-4).
We could see that trend continue, but the Wizards feel like fun underdogs here and arguably aren’t getting enough respect. This should be closer to a pick’em game. We like the Wiz, but if you’re not completely comfortable, at least consider Washington to beat the spread in what should be a well contested affair.
San Antonio Spurs (n/a)
New Orleans Pelicans (n/a)
The New Orleans Pelicans hope to get back on track on Friday, when they host the San Antonio Spurs. That’s probably only possible if they get star big man Anthony Davis back, and he’s tentatively expected to suit up:
The Brow is crucial to the Pels’ success, but he’s been missing and exiting games at a rapid rate lately, suggesting he’s nowhere near full strength and increasingly tough to trust. That’s not good news for a matchup with the Spurs, who have a collection of tough bigs to toss at the skinny Davis.
The Brow could easily dominate this matchup (and he does average over 30 points per game at home), but he hasn’t even been finishing games lately. On top of that, Tyreke Evans remains on a severe minutes cap and the Pels are not trending in the right direction (just 4-6 over their last 10 games).
Did we mention the Pelicans are facing the Spurs? San Antonio is inexplicably elite on the road this year (20-4) and has dominated this specific series (5 wins in a row). The only thing holding the Spurs back could be the status of Kawhi Leonard, who is still questionable to play in this one.
Even without Leonard, we don’t trust the Pels right now and the Spurs have the system and depth to get a road win against an inferior team.
Miami Heat (+6)
Chicago Bulls (-6)
The Chicago Bulls have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, as Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler both publicly bashed some under-performing teammates and then Rajon Rondo called them out for doing so:
It’s not a good scene in Chicago right now, so now may not be the best time for Wade to take on his former squad. The Bulls did win the previous two meetings this year, but Chicago is not mentally locked in right now and they’ll take on a Miami team that most certainly is (5 straight wins).
Miami has not been good on the road this season (7-17) and they could be without Hassan Whiteside (ankle). Whiteside sat out the fourth quarter of Miami’s win over the Nets and later suggested he shouldn’t have played in the game in the first place. If the ankle hasn’t improved, he could sit and give way to Willie Reed at the five spot.
Whiteside or no Whiteside, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have been playing lights out basketball and there is something to be said about a team fracture in Chicago. If the Bulls aren’t believing in each other and exchanging shots through the media, they’re not a safe bet right now. The real play is Miami beating the spread, but we’re going for the full upset.
Memphis Grizzlies (+1)
Portland Trail Blazers (-1)
The last game of the night might be some wishful thinking on part of the oddsmakers, as this battle between the Grizzlies and Blazers has just a one-point spread. Perhaps that has something to do with Portland’s recent two-game winning streak or the Grizzlies’ recent struggles.
Either way, it doesn’t add up completely, as Memphis still feels like the better team and can play some of the best defense in the league when they’re clicking. Marc Gasol proved in his last game (career high 42 points) that he can be a real problem down low, too, and Portland doesn’t have anyone that can handle him.
Needless to say, this will come down to whether or not the Blazers can get elite production out of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. If so, perhaps we get a barn burner, but even if that happens, we trust Memphis, who has nabbed a win in 7 of the last 10 games in this series.
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