The format of this new NBA play-in tournament means that the third and final game of each Conference’s tourney will pit two teams coming off of opposite performances in a battle for the eighth spot. That is especially true in the Eastern Conference, as the Indiana Pacers will head to the nation’s capital fresh off of a blowout win on Tuesday to take on the Washington Wizards, who were spanked by the Boston Celtics on the same night.
Free Picks: Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers
Wizards Look To Secure 8th Seed With Win Over Pacers (Play-In Picks Record: 1-3)
The Washington Wizards’ end of regular season finish in the eighth seed compared to the 9th place finish of the Indiana Pacers is the reason that the Wiz get home court advantage on Thursday night despite being the team that lost on Tuesday. Not that that should really bother Indiana, however, considering that they have been an awful home team overall during this campaign.
Indiana entered Tuesday’s tilt with the Charlotte Hornets with a ton of injury concerns, but it turns out that they were only missing one significant piece: Caris LeVert, who is in the league’s COVID-induced health and safety protocols and is unlikely to be able to participate in the first round of the playoff tournament proper even if the Pacers win on Thursday night.
And they’ve got a real chance. Domantas Sabonis looked no worse for wear after coming into the game as a game-time call due to a quad issue. Questions surrounding the availabilities of guards Edmond Sumner and Malcolm Brogdon also ended up being answered very positively for Nate Bjorkgren’s squad: Sumner scored seven points in seven minutes while Brogdon started, played 21 minutes, and went 6-for-10 from the field for 16 points to go with eight dimes.
Brogdon played in short spurts, but he wasn’t missing a beat after returning from a 10-game absence. It was really everyone on the team having a good time draining shots except Sabonis, who only had 14 points but added 21 rebounds and nine dimes. The team shot 55 from the field and 45 from the floor, both of which are almost 10 percentage points higher than their season averages.
Those huge spikes in efficiency would lead one to believe that may have been a fluke performance against an uber-youthful Hornets team that was clearly not ready for the moment. If it was indeed a fluke, we would expect them to crash down to the mean on Thursday, which has informed our NBA pick for this game.
Equally important to our decision to make Washington’s -3.5 NBA point spread at lovely -111 NBA odds our best bet for today was just how bad the Wiz were on Tuesday. The Wizards lost 118-100 to the Celtics after completely collapsing coming out of halftime, allowing the C’s to go on a 17-2 run coming out of the break.
That display was unacceptable for a team in a win and you’re in scenario, especially one with a pair of talented and experienced All-Stars. Bradley Beal put forth a valiant effort as he continued to power through a hamstring injury that was clearly bothering him at times during the clash. He finished with 22 points on 40 percent shooting, which isn’t quite the efficiency they’ll be looking for if they expect to move forward and validate our top pick for today.
He hit only one three-pointer, and the team went a combined 3-for-21 from beyond the arc on the night—shooting hat bad two nights in a row is borderline impossible for an NBA team. None of those three were drained by Russell Westbrook, who had one of the worst games in a playoff scenario of his career, recording just one rebound and no assists after halftime, going 0-for-4 from deep in the game, shooting 6-for-18 from the field overall, and pacing the Wiz with four turnovers.
Brodie is a great player, and great players don’t put up duds like that twice in a row. In fact, since the start of February, the Wizards have gone 7-1 straight up in games following a Westbrook shooting performance of 33 percent or worse. The last such game resulted in an overtime win for the Wiz over these very Pacers a couple of weeks ago in which Russ put up 33 points, 19 rebounds, and 15 dimes.
We are nearly certain that Westbrook will answer the bell this time around, so we’re re-upping with the over on his points + rebounds + assists prop once again as a top pick. The number remains at 50.5 like last game, and we’re getting the over at lovely -115 NBA odds. If Brodie can’t pull it together on Thursday and put on a show to send his team to the playoffs, he and the Wiz will have a very long offseason ahead of them.
- Washington is 7-1 SU since Feb. following games in which Westbrook shot 33 percent or lower
- Washington is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 following an ATS loss
- Washington is 7-0-1 ATS in their last 8 games following a SU loss
- Indiana is 18-26-1 ATS this season when playing on regular 1 days’ rest
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Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the BetPicks.ca team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.