It was redemption Sunday, as the two best teams in the NBA, the Heat and Thunder were each beaten on the road by the “old champs.” Boston and the Lakers both entered the day under .500 and with little reason to assume either could knock off the presumptive top seed in their respective conferences. But as Rudy Tomjanavich famously said back in 1994, “don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce dialed up the way-back machine and carried the Celtics to a much needed double OT victory, but the excitement had to be tempered a bit by learning immediately after the game that their star point guard Rajon Rondo will be out the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.
Does the injury to Rondo open up the door a bit
For the eighth seed in the East?? Philadelphia and Toronto will certainly be encouraged. But there is ONE more dark horse (real dark horse…) candidate that has set their sights on a miracle playoff run. So let’s check in on them in the nation’s capital for tonight’s free pick.
Sacramento Kings at Washington Wizards -8
I wrote yesterday that the Wizards were the hottest team in the NBA and that Vegas and the betting public hasn’t quite caught up yet. Perhaps today is the day they finally have. Can you remember the last time the Wizards were FAVORED by eight points?? Perhaps back in the days of Agent Zero, a.k.a Gilbert Arenas when they made three straight playoff appearances, but certainly not anytime this season. But after covering in 10 straight games, the lines are finally starting to widen.
More important than their 10 straight covers is their 7-3 actual record in those games, with wins at Portland, at Denver, and against Chicago, Minnesota, Atlanta and Oklahoma City. That’s an impressive run for ANY team in the league, not just one that was flirting with the worst record in the NBA. They are still in a huge hole at 11-31 overall, but with John Wall’s return and the recent streak, are actually making a playoff berth a team goal.
Sacramento on the other hand is heading the opposite direction, and might even be soon heading out of town (Seattle is seeming more and more possible). They have lost four in a row and seven of their last ten, and are a dismal 1-8-1 ATS in their last ten games. For the season they are one of the worst teams against the number at 17-26-2 while Washington is one of the best at 26-14-2.
I am not wild about laying eight points with the Wizards – old habits die hard; but the numbers are overwhelmingly in their favor. Sacramento has lost by nine or more points in all of their last six losses, with the average margin of defeat around 17 points. Washington, against MUCH better teams has won by double digits in three of their last five games, including back-to-back double digit wins against Chicago and Minnesota.
I like the Wiz to keep playing with their newfound confidence and energy tonight at home. The have had a few days to rest and now get a terrible road team making the trip all the way across the country. Even laying the eight, I’m going Wizards tonight.
Free Pick: Washington Wizards -8