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An Eastern Conference clash between two struggling teams here as the Charlotte Hornets host the Washington Wizards. Neither team had high expectations entering the year but they've both been disappointments, as the Hornets sit at 9-16, while the Wizards enter at 7-15. Oddsmakers have this one as pretty close to even, so it should be a tight one.
Wizards Banged UpThe Washington Wizards knew all along this was going to be a tough year. Point guard John Wall is going to miss at least the first half of this season, and since he is eating up such a massive portion of their cap space, it was hard for them to do anything. Bradley Beal has been anchoring the team and has been playing at a very high level, but he can't do it all by himself. This is clearly a rebuilding year for Washington and they have by far the league's worst defense so far, giving up an average of 122.5 points per game. Their most recent game was an ugly 16-point loss at home to the Clippers, and they are just 3-9 on the road this season. They gave up 125 points to Los Angeles after giving up 150 to them a week ago, and their defense is getting absurdly bad.
They had been getting some strong play from young center Thomas Bryant who was averaging 14 points and 8.5 rebounds, but he has now missed the last few games with a foot injury. It doesn't look like he's going to play here, and that leaves the Wizards with very little size. Rookie Rui Hachimura has been playing some center in his absence, but I don't think that's a role he's ready for and he's only 6'8. They've been very vulnerable inside recently, and they have nobody who can defend opposing post players. Isaiah Thomas, who has been providing them with 12.6 points per game, will also miss at least the next week with a calf injury. Oddsmakers have the Wizards as a favorite here and that's not a role they have thrived in recently, as they're just 4-12 against the spread in their last 16 games as a road favorite.
Hornets Have OffenseThe Hornets were widely expected to be one of if not the worst team in the league this season, so even though they are just 9-16 it hasn't been that bad relatively speaking as they're currently the 10 seed in the East. They let franchise icon Kemba Walker walk in free agency this offseason, and signed Terry Rozier to replace him. Obviously their record isn't too good, but they have had some bright spots. Second-year point guard Devonte' Graham, the 34th overall pick in last year's draft, has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the entire NBA. After barely playing last year he came out of nowhere, and is now averaging 18.8 points per game to go along with 7.8 assists. He's been on fire recently, scoring at least 29 points in two of his past three games.
The Hornets understandably haven't been able to hang around against the league's best teams but they've actually taken care of business against its worst, as they are 12-3 against the spread in their last 15 games against teams with winning percentages below .400. Rookie PJ Washington has also been playing very well, and fortunately he is being considered probable for this one with a minor ankle injury. Since the Wizards are lacking in size, guys like Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo will be key here. Zeller has quietly been having a very solid season, putting up 11.3 and 7.6 in only 23.5 minutes per game. They have a very solid scoring backcourt with Graham and Rozier, who are both shooting over 41 percent from three on the year, so they should be able to have some success against this porous Washington defense.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Hoornets are:
- 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games vs. a team with a winning % below .400
- 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games as a favorite
- 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games as a road favorite
- 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games playing on 1 days rest
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I think getting the Hornets as a home underdog here presents a lot of value. The Wizards are a mess defensively right now, and they're also pretty banged up. Without Thomas Bryant in the lineup they have virtually no size, which leaves them incredibly exposed on the interior. Rui Hachimura simply isn't ready to be playing center, and there's no reason the Wizards should be a road favorite here. The Hornets quietly have a lot to be excited about, and they have a ton of shooting. They will win this one pretty easily.
Prediction: Hornets +1.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I also like the over a lot here. Everybody knows how bad Washington's defense is, but it has been getting even worse recently. Them giving up at least 140 points isn't at all uncommon, which is ridiculous to think about. Without Bryant in the lineup, their defense gets even worse, as they are completely exposed around the rim. Graham and Rozier have both been shooting lights out recently, and I see no reason why that wouldn't continue here against the league's worst defense. This game should be played at a very fast pace, and it has shootout written all over it.