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Eastern Conference clash here as the Miami Heat host the Washington Wizards. These two teams have been trending in opposite directions as the Wizards have been having a rough year while Miami has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the league. Washington will be looking to pull off a big upset here...
Wizards SinkingThe Washington Wizards knew they were going to be in for a tough year, but it's still disappointing to lose as much as they have. John Wall was always going to miss at least the first half of this season, leaving Bradley Beal as the only good veteran left on the team. They haven't been blatantly tanking but they're also clearly not playing to win this year and are trying to build for the future, so they're playing a lot of young guys. Rookie Rui Hachimura and second-year player Moritz Wagner have taken on very prominent roles recently, and I'd expect that to continue as the season goes on. Beal has been fantastic and is averaging 28.7 points per game to go along with 7.2 assists, but unfortunately, he can't do it all himself. The Wizards have been starting Isaiah Thomas to try and give them some extra scoring, but that has, of course, downgraded their defense.
The Wizards are banged up right now especially down low, and that's something you are going to need to monitor. Starting center Thomas Bryant was just revealed to be dealing with a foot injury that will knock him out for at least the next few weeks, and that's a huge loss. Bryant had been averaging 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds, and the Wizards are now putting Hachimura at center, which is a role I'm not sure he's quite ready for. Wagner is dealing with an ankle injury, and it's unclear if he's going to play in this one. Check back closer to game time. If he doesn't play either, then Washington will have very little size. This is also a road back-to-back for the Wizards as they play in Philadelphia Thursday night, putting them in an especially tough spot.
Heat RollingWhile the Wizards have struggled out of the gate, the Miami Heat have been one of the toasts of the league. They made bold moves this offseason like signing Jimmy Butler to a big free-agent contract, and so far things have paid off as they have raced out to a 15-6 record. Butler has completely changed the culture of the team, and they now have one of the league's best defensive units. They've proven to have one of the best home court advantage of any team in the league, and they have incredibly still not lost a home game this season. They've shown the ability to bully around weaker teams, and five of their last eight wins have come by at least 15 points. Goran Dragic is being listed as questionable for this one with a groin injury, and to be honest it looks like he isn't going to play.
Dragic has been taking a bit of a backseat however, and I think they have enough scoring to get by without him. They've uncovered one of the best diamonds in the rough in recent memory in shooting guard Kendrick Nunn. Nunn spent all of last season in the G League before Miami picked him up, and he is now garnering Rookie of the Year consideration as he is averaging 15.0 points per game. Miami's other rookie Tyler Herro is also gotten off to a hot start, as the 13th overall pick in this past year's draft is averaging 13.6 points per game so far. One of the keys to this game will be taking advantage of Washington's banged-up frontcourt, which means Bam Adebayo is crucial here. Adebayo has taken a big step forward with Hassan Whiteside out of the way, and is averaging 14 and 10 this year.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Heat are:
- 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11 home games
- 15-5-1 ATS in their last 21 games as a favorite
- 14-6-1 ATS in their last 21 games overall
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games overall
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I don't see any way that this one doesn't end in a blowout. The Wizards are one of the worst teams in the league, they are really banged up at the moment, and they're playing the second half of a road back to back here. Miami has been rolling this season, and they're undefeated at home on the year. Without Bryant in the lineup the Wizards don't really have anyone to play center, and I expect Adebayo to take full advantage down low. Washington should be very fatigued, and I don't think they stand any chance here.
Full-Game Total Pick
I also think the over makes some sense here. Washington already has the league's worst defense, and on the second half of a back-to-back I think their tired legs will make that unit even worse. They're giving up a whopping 122.4 points per game, so this improved Miami offense should have no trouble scoring. Washington doesn't have anybody at center, so I think the Heat will be able to get plenty of easy buckets down low. The over is 8-3 in Washington's last 11 games, and I expect that trend to continue here.