With the focus on college basketball and the start of ‘March Madness’ its important not to forget that value still can be found in late season NBA action. We like this non-conference matchup between the high flying Denver Nuggets and the not so high flying Washington Wizards. Denver is giving the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors all they can handle in the Western Conference and enter this matchup on a four game winning streak. The Nuggets have pared the Warriors lead in the conference standings down to 1/2 game and with Golden State in action tonight at home against Indiana they need to keep pace. The Warriors have been ‘treading water’ of late so a loss to Indiana would not be an unrealistic scenario in which case a Nuggets win would give them sole ownership of the conference lead.
The Washington Wizards are having an extremely disappointing season and its unclear what direction management will take in the offseason. On the plus side–Washington has made the playoffs in four of the last five seasons winning at least one round in all of them. On the downside–that’s all they’ve won. They’ve not made it past the Conference Semifinals in any of their recent postseason jaunts. The ‘big picture’ of Washington’s playoff struggles date back much longer than that. A Washington NBA team–Bullets or Wizards–have not gone past the Conference Semifinals since 1978-1979. That year they lost to the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals. A 40 year absence from a decent playoff run is downright ugly.
It’s going to get uglier this season as the Wizards are likely going to miss the playoffs altogether. They’re not mathematically eliminated yet but its becoming more difficult to visualize a scenario where they play in this postseason. They’re currently 5.5 games behind the Miami Heat for the 8th and final playoff spot with two teams between them. They’ve split their last 10 games so its not like they’re showing a ton of urgency. The Wizards were already playing without injured Dwight Howard and John Wall and will likely play this game without forward Trevor Ariza (downgraded to ‘doubtful’).
Washington had shown some life early in March and at one point covered six straight and 7 of 8. They’ve since lost 3 of 4 both straight up and against the spread with two of those losses coming at home. One problematic sign from a betting standpoint is Washington’s poor showing as an underdog where they’re 10-26 SU/14-10-1 ATS. They’re better as a home dog going 5-5 SU/7-3 ATS but its never encouraging to see a team have difficulty when they ‘step up in class’. Denver has struggled on the road this season but they’ve brought home the bacon in 5 of their last 6 away assignments. The Nuggets are one game above .500 (17-16) on the road straight up but they’ve struggled against the number going 14-19.
Tough to lay a price on the road in the NBA but Denver should have some significant matchup advantages in this game and catch Washington on the wrong end of a back to back situation. Washington is in a 5 game in 7 day situation as well. Huge defensive disparity in this game with the Nuggets at #6 in scoring defense while the Wizards have the #29 scoring defense in the league. With the lowly New York Knicks on deck the Wizards will have the Nuggets full focus.