Following a close loss to the East’s best (39-16) Cleveland Cavaliers, the (29-26) Indiana Pacers return home to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play another tough challenge in the NBA’s hottest team, the (33-21) Washington Wizards today (7pm ET, Thursday). This will be the final game prior to the All-Star break for both teams.
After losing their first two games of 2017, the Wizards have been almost unstoppable going 18-3 in their next 21 and 18-5 dating back to the beginning of January. Two of these three losses have been by five points or less as well. Washington has been making their case and has climbed from the middle of the pack to the third ranked team in the East, just 5.5 games behind the Cavaliers for that top spot. This sort of red hot form from the road team needs to be taken into consideration when this preview concludes with its betting predictions and picks. They might prove hard to bet against.
Washington currently leads the season series two games to one, meaning a win today would give the Wizards the tiebreaker in case the two teams ended the season tied.
Sixth in the East, the Pacers bookended the month of January with victories, including a seven game winning streak which carried into early February. Since that winning streak ended, the Pacers have been in a mini freefall, losing their last five in a row, including against Washington just a few days ago.
While Indiana is a much better team at home, 20-9, expecting them to win against a team as hot as the Wizards have been, might be something of a stretch. The Pacers will be playing in the back end of a doubleheader while the Wizards haven’t played since Tuesday and come into this one well-rested.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]Rebounding isn’t a strength of either team but for the Pacers it is a downright liability[/quote]
Offensively, Washington has climbed up the ranks as well as the standings, sitting fourth in the East in points per game and most importantly, first in field goal percentage with a mark just a few ticks under 48 percent. This puts the Wizards just behind the Golden State Warriors, the only team shooting over 50 percent, for the best mark in the league.
Washington has succeeded thanks to a team effort and big contributions up and down the line-up, but the biggest reason has been because of now six-year veteran John Wall (pictured). Considered to be one of the best point guards in the league, the 26-year-old Wall has carved a name for himself ever since he was drafted first overall by the Wizards in 2010. This year, he has averaged a double-double, with 22.9 points per game and 10.6 assists per game, which is second in the NBA behind James Harden of the Houston Rockets. Wall is also second in the league in steals per game, with an average of 2.10, just 0.2 behind Draymond Green of the Warriors, who is in first place.
One of the best young players in the game, Wall is a guard made much in the image of Chris Paul and his numbers support that. He has carried the Wizards in the bad years and now, in the midst of their 10-for-11 streak, he has been instrumental. He has averaged 23.8 points in the month of February, including all but one game over 22 points scored.
Offensively, Wall is flanked by the equally as impressive Bradley Beal, who is second in the team in scoring with 22.3 points per game. The 23-year-old Beal, in his third year in the NBA, is having a career season. Beal’s season averages are all up, including field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists and points, which have increased almost five full points from his previous career high last year of 17.4. During the winning streak, Beal has been front and center, leading the team with his 24.8 points averaged in the month of February, including two 30+ point games.
Rounding out the Wizards’ trio of stars is nine-year veteran Marcin Gortat, who is averaging 11.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, which is good enough for 8th best in the league and is the best mark of his career. During the winning streak Gortat has been a monster on the boards, picking up on average, 12.3 rebounds per game including 3.3 off the offensive glass.
Indiana’s Rebounding Woes
One of the reasons the Pacers have suddenly struggled has been their lack of rebounding. The team is coming off six straight games in which they have lost the pivotal battle of the boards, both offensive and defensive. They haven’t been able to create many second chance opportunities and in this league, that’s something that hurts even the best shooting teams, which Indiana is not.
The Pacers currently have the third worst rebounding differential in the NBA, a mark that sits at 3.9. This means that Indiana’s opponents are out-rebounding them by almost four per game. Contrast this with the Wizards, who are ranked 14th in the league with a +0.3 differential. Rebounding isn’t exactly a strength of either team but for the Pacers it is a downright liability.
Winning the Turnover Battle
While the Pacers might not be good at creating extra opportunities off the glass, one thing they are good at is creating extra possessions via turnovers. Indiana is fifth in the NBA with an average of 15.3 turnovers forced per game. Unfortunately however, this is just another area where the Wizards are better.
Washington leads the league with their 15.6 turnovers forced per game and have been even better over the past 10 game span at forcing their opponents to cough up the basketball. In the NBA, winning the turnover margin is crucial and it should serve as no surprise that this is in part why the Wizards have been so successful recently.
Washington Wizards vs Indiana Pacers Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
The Wizards are rightly favored by the United States friendly online betting sites. Washington has just been too hot lately and Indiana too cold. It’s not exactly a formula for success for the home team, so these are this preview’s picks and betting predictions: