Hornets vs. Wizards Odds, Prediction, Preview: Where There’s Betting Value in Important Eastern Conference Finale (May 16)

Hornets vs. Wizards Odds, Prediction, Preview: Where There’s Betting Value in Important Eastern Conference Finale (May 16) article feature image
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Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Charlotte Hornets teammates LaMelo Ball, left, and P.J. Washington.

  • The Hornets take on the Wizards to close the regular season with plenty on the line for both.
  • The winner of the game will get the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, which means only one win will be required for that team to get a playoff series.
  • Raheem Palmer breaks down the betting value and delivers his best bet for this big matchup.

Hornets vs. Wizards Odds

Hornets Odds +6.5
Wizards Odds -6.5
Moneyline -275 / +220
Over/Under 227.5
Time 1 p.m. ET
TV NBATV
Odds as of Sunday morning via BetMGM.

After six months of basketball with 72 games crammed into a shortened schedule with uncertainty due to health and COVID-19 safety protocols, we’ve successfully made it through.

It’s the last day of the NBA’s regular season and the real drama is officially here, as the addition of the play-in game has intensified the postseason race with many of Sunday’s 15 games having playoff implications.

With the Washington Wizards defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday and the Charlotte Hornets’ overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Saturday, the matchup between the Wizards and Hornets will determine the No. 8 seed in the play-in tournament, giving a team two chances to make the postseason.

The loser will fall to the No. 10 seed and will need to win two games to get into the postseason. Nonetheless, the eight seed is highly coveted, with the winner substantially increasing its postseason odds.

Is there a better way to open up the final day of the regular season than having the Wizards host the Hornets in a game where oddsmakers have installed the the Washington as a 6.5-point favorite?

Let’s analyze both sides and try to find the betting value for this matchup.

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Injuries Created Difficult Road for Charlotte

You have to feel bad for the Hornets, as they’ve been absolutely riddled with injuries that have put them in the precarious position where they need to win the final game of the regular season in order to attain the an eight seed.

After losing to the the Los Angeles Clippers on March 20, the Hornets were 20-21 on the season and fourth in the Eastern Conference. LaMelo Ball, who appeared to be the clear-cut winner of the Rookie of the Year Award, suffered a wrist injury that caused him to miss 21 games.

Although the Hornets won three consecutive outings and five out of their next seven to get to 25-23, they lost Gordon Hayward to a right foot sprain April 2 and he has yet to play a game since.

Unfortunately for Charlotte, he’ll be out for the play-in tournament as well, so it feels like this team is fighting with one arm tied behind its back.

Ball has since returned to the lineup, but with Hayward went out, the Hornets have been in a complete tailspin and gone 8-15, with an Offensive Rating of 109.1 (25th), a Defensive Rating of 113.7 (21st) and a Net Rating of -4.6 for 25th overall.

When you factor in the loss of Miles Bridges for six games due to COVID-19 protocols, you have a team that isn’t what it was at the start the season. The Hornets were 2-4 without Bridges, but he did return in Saturday’s 118-109 overtime loss to the New York Knicks, scoring 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting, He added five rebounds and four assists, so that was encouraging.

Even more encouraging is that this team fought back from an 18-point deficit against the Knicks to come within a basket from winning in regulation. You have to wonder what impact it will have on this game, given that the Hornets expended a lot of energy just to come up short.

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Although the Hornets are 21st in Offensive Rating (111.0) in their non-garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass, their ability to shoot the three makes them dangerous.

They’re eighth in 3-point shooting percentage (39.1%), and in a league that places emphasis on the shooting from behind the arc, the Hornets can compete with any team in that department.

However, Charlotte hasn’t shot particularly well recently, hitting under 30% from three in four out of its last five games, including the loss to the Knicks. The Hornets shot just 13 of 49 (26.5%), including Devonte Graham’s air ball three that could have won the game at the end of regulation.

If there’s a positive for this Hornets team, it’s that it fits the profile of a franchise that should have some success in the playoffs given its ability to switch PNRs, as it doesn’t have bigs who won’t get played off the floor.

The Hornets also are sixth in defending the midrange (41.0%), an area where the Wizards are first in frequency of shots taken at 39.9 percent. If there’s any weakness for this team, it’s in rim protection, as it’s allowing opposing teams to shooting 64.8% in the paint.

Charlotte is also a poor defensive rebounding team, ranking just 26th in Defensive Rebound Rate (72.2). The Hornets aren’t in the best spot, playing a back-to-back set and they haven’t been great in these situations, going just 7-8 this season.

However, in two matchups against the Wizards so far, the Hornets earned wins via 119-97 and 114-104 results. Can the Hornets pull off a win again?

Beal, Westbrook Power Washington’s Second-Half Surge

The Wizards have turned the corner since the All-Star break, going 13-5 in their last 18 games after starting the season with a 14-20 record.

Before the All-Star break, they had an Offensive Rating of 109.7 (21st); Defensive Rating of 113.6 (27th); and, Net Rating of -3.9 for 24th overall. Since the break, the Wizards have an Offensive Rating of 111.6 (19th); Defensive Rating of 111.3 (11th); and, Net Rating of 0.3 for 16th overall.

Bradley Beal has consistently been the Wizards best player. He’s second in scoring, averaging 31.4 points per game and his offensive impact can’t be understated. Washington is scoring 115.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor versus 105.4 points with him off the floor for a +10.3 difference.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, Beal suffered a hamstring strain in last Saturday’s 133-132 overtime win against the Indiana Pacers and has missed the past three games. It’s no coincidence the Wizards are 1-2 in those games.

Beal is questionable for this game and we’ll likely find out if he’s playing closer to game time so be sure to monitor his injury status at The Action Network.

Editor’s note: Beal is going to be active for Sunday’s game against the Hornets. For more updated injury news, check out our NBA Insiders tool.

If the Wizards are going to defeat the Hornets without Beal, it will be because Russell Westbrook, who has been on quite a tear. Westbrook struggled with COVID-19 and an injured quadriceps he suffered in the bubble with the Houston Rockets.

He then hurt the other quad after being dealt to the Wizards. To no surprise, Washington struggled with its floor general banged up at start the year.

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With Westbrook healthy, he’s returned to form and averaging a triple double for his fourth season, breaking Oscar Robertson’s record for triple doubles (183) in his career. Westbrook could cause problems against a Hornets’ defense that struggles to protect the rim.

You can expect Washington, which is ninth in field-goal percentage at the rim (66.6%), to capitalize in this spot. Of course, if Westbrook is shooting a ton of mid-range jumpers, that isn’t ideal against a Charlotte side that’s solid at defending that area of the floor.

Where the Wizards could find some success is in transition, as the Hornets are 22nd in Defensive Transition frequency, with 15.4% of defensive plays started in transition. With Westbrook, the Wizards are second in Offensive Transition frequency, as 17.7% percent of offensive plays start that way.

The Hornets are 11th in opponent fast-break points, but you have to expect Westbrook to put pressure on Charlotte, which is coming off a hard-fought, back-to-back set against the Knicks.

Although Beal and Westbrook might get all the hype, the biggest improvement has been on the defensive end of the floor and trade-deadline acquisition of Daniel Gafford might have played big part in that.

The addition of a rim-protecting big, who can block shots on defense and run the floor and catch lobs on offense, has been great. In just 17.8 minutes of action, Gafford is averaging 10.2 points on 68.9% shooting. Plus,he’s pulling down 5.6 rebounds and collecting 1.8 blocks, making a big defensive impact.

The Wizards were 27th in Defensive Rating this season, giving up 114.4 points per 100 possessions, but since March 25, they have a rating of just 109.6.  That’s sixth among teams, which could be attributed to Gafford’s presence.

It’s actually tragic he’s not playing more than 16.8 minutes a game, considering his impact. Gafford leads the team in PER (26.35); FG% (.68.9); blocks (1.8 BPG); and, he’s third on the team in rebounds (5.6 RPG) this season.

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Hornets-Wizards Pick

The public is all over the Wizards here, betting this up from the opener of Wizards -4 to where it currently sits at -6.5 points. Can you blame the bettors?

The Hornets are 3-7 in their last 10 games, with their wins coming against the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons (two victories). Those are also teams tanking for next season. In addition, they’re on a back-to-back after fighting back from an 18-point deficit against the Knicks only to lose in overtime.

Still, I’m not sure how you can lay 6.5 points with the Wizards, particularly if Beal isn’t playing, as they’re +10.3 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor.

The Wizards also have a 2-10 record without Beal, which is pretty damning. Even more problematic is they have just a 105.3 Offensive Rating in the 12 games without him. He’s still questionable, but I lean toward the Hornets.

My projections make this game Wizards at -5, so this spread is slightly off in my opinion. However, without Beal or a version of him that’s hobbled, I’d be looking to take the Hornets at the best number I could get above plus-5 here.

My projections also make this total at 230 points. And while the number sits at 227.5 via BetMGM, it’s important to recognize this is essentially a playoff game, so we could see tougher defense and shortened rotations.

I don’t feel good about it, because I believe the Washington should win this game. However, if you absolutely have to make a play, try to get the best number you can on Charlotte as the public has created an edge in this game.

Pick: Hornets +6.5

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