NBA Picks ATS: Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls

Bradley Beal-wall-wizards-2013Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls
Time: 7 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: CHI -8
Total: 207.5

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The 16-19 Washington Wizards need to turn on the jets. Washington has continued its mediocrity as winners of five of its past 10, but with a tougher Eastern Conference a .500 record likely will not be enough to make the postseason this year.

Washington has been better on the road than at home, and will carry its 8-8 road record to Chicago to take on the 22-13 Bulls. NBA oddsmakers favor the Bulls by eight points in the game which will air at 7 PM Central on NBA League Pass.

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Washington has lost four of its past six, which may not be so problematic if both wins did not come against the Orlando Magic, a team Washington has utterly dominated in the past three seasons (to the tune of 12-0).

John Wall looked brilliant in the win over Orlando, posting 24 points and 10 assists, and though he had seven turnovers the Wizards were clicking the entire game. Washington shot 13 of 23 from three-point range and 53 percent from the floor, finding a number of ways to exploit Orlando’s recently struggling defense.

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Getting the team to play like that against better teams remains a challenge. The Wizards have basically just knocked off the teams it should have up to this point, but something seems to indicate this team will make its run. The Wizards swept Toronto in the playoffs last year and took Atlanta (a 60-win team) to six games. Surely the team does not go to the lottery after such a strong showing and a core of rotations players largely the same as last year.

There is certainly no denying the level of talent the Wiz have in the backcourt. Wall and Bradley Beal both average near 20 points per game, and Wall has been sensational on both ends of the court. Washington also has a nice balance of depth, and its role players help form the look of a team that should be far better than three games below .500.

Otto Porter Jr. is blossoming and Gary Neal is a flame thrower off the bench. Marcin Gortat is one of the league’s best 5-men in the pick and roll, both on offense and defense. He is also hitting 82 percent of his hook shots, which seems to be something only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could have done better. This is a Wizards team with plenty of talent, yet it is 8-point dogs to Chicago? The Bulls are a formidable team but Washington has been good on the road and it seems it can push that spread to the limit, even winning.

The Bulls did have its six-game win streak snapped by the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night, and it was not close. The Hawks ran away with it, winning by 15 points behind the strength of its premier frontcourt. That really should have been an area Chicago handled better, given its defensive talents around the basket.

Chicago put all five starters in double figures in the loss, though the Bulls shot just 43.4 percent from the field. Despite losing, Chicago held a plus-six advantage on the boards and looked better offensively than it does in some wins. Nikola Mirotic broke out of his season-long slump to score 24 points and grab 10 rebounds, and getting him to come around could be the key to this Bulls team ascending beyond the level of an “also ran.”

Mirotic is shooting just 39.6 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three, but he has shown signs of coming around. Over the Bulls’ last five games, he has shot 48.1 percent and 46.9 percent, respectively, while averaging 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. For Chicago to have any chance at real contention, it needs a secondary scorer after the explosive Jimmy Butler.

And make no mistake, Butler has been entirely dominant; he just cannot do it alone.

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