The Daily Sweat: Can Russell Westbrook and the Wizards bounce back vs. the Pacers?

·6-min read

It’s win or go home for the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers.

The NBA’s play-in tournament has added a heavy layer of drama to what would ordinarily be an underwhelming matchup between two mediocre teams. Instead, the winner of Thursday night’s game will move on to the NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed to face the No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers.

The loser will see their season come to an end.

After dropping their first play-in game on the road against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, the Wizards will return home for this one. The Wizards were underdogs against the Celtics, but are favored by three points over the Pacers, who are coming off a 27-point victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Before Tuesday’s loss, the Wizards were one of the NBA’s hottest teams. Over their final 20 regular-season games, the Wizards went 15-5 straight up and 15-4-1 against the spread. They were also one of the best road ATS teams in the league at 22-13-1, but even strong trends like that can’t account for a special player like Boston’s Jayson Tatum going off for 50 points.

How will Russell Westbrook and the Wizards respond? They certainly don’t want such a strong finish to the regular season to be all for naught. For one, Westbrook needs to play better. He was the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for May, but went just 6-of-18 from the field against Boston.

Westbrook needs some help, too. Bradley Beal, still hobbled by a hamstring strain, dropped 22 points, but did so on 10-of-25 shooting. Beal was just 1-of-6 from three, his struggles illustrating what was a miserable night from long distance for the Wizards, who shot 3-for-21. There’s no way they shoot that poorly again, right?

And what about Indiana? The Pacers have had a pretty disappointing season. But bettors have been able to profit off the Pacers if they’ve been paying attention to how often they go over the point total. Including Tuesday’s game against the Hornets, the over is 45-27-1 in Pacers games this season. It’s even better when the Pacers play on the road: 24-11-1. And when the Pacers are an away underdog, the over is 14-5.

If you envision the Wizards bouncing back offensively, the over could be a prudent play. The over hit in all three of the Wizards-Pacers matchups during the regular season, doing so by an average of 30 points.

The total for Thursday night’s game is currently set at 236.5 at BetMGM.

Fans wearing protective masks watch as Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook (4) takes a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference Play-in game, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Wizards star Russell Westbrook needs to step up Thursday night. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

PGA Championship underway

The PGA Championship begins Thursday morning at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Rory McIlroy is currently the betting favorite at BetMGM with +1200. Three others — Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas — are next on the odds list at +1400. Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson aren’t far behind at +1600.

Jay Busbee has been providing great coverage for Yahoo Sports in the lead-up to the tournament. If you’re looking for a breakdown and betting picks, he’s got you covered here. Busbee and Scott Pianowski, Yahoo Sports’ lead fantasy analyst, went more in-depth with their thoughts on the tournament here.

Both Busbee and Pianowski have their eyes on a few players further down the board where there is plenty of betting value to be had.

Who cashed tickets last night?

It was a good night for underdog bettors in the NBA — if you got the right number. 

In the early Western Conference play-in game, the Memphis Grizzlies edged the San Antonio Spurs, 100-96. The last few minutes were tense. The Grizzlies opened as three-point favorites, but that number moved to four and then 4.5 as Wednesday progressed. 

Memphis had a 98-90 lead with 1:25 to play, but that lead shrunk to 99-96 with 9.5 seconds to go when Rudy Gay hit a 3-pointer. The Spurs then immediately fouled Ja Morant on the ensuing inbound pass. Morant missed the first free throw and hit the second. Final score: 100-96. 

Those free throws were very consequential for bettors. If you got the Grizzlies at the opening number, you cashed your ticket. If you waited a bit, you either pushed or lost, thanks to Morant's missed freebie. 

In the nightcap, the Los Angeles Lakers eked past the Golden State Warriors 103-100, thanks to a late triple from LeBron James. 

The Lakers opened as a seven-point favorite, but that number ticked down to 4.5 before moving up to 5.5 and then to Lakers -6 just before tipoff. 

The Lakers actually trailed by 13 at halftime but used a big third quarter to rally and entered the fourth down just two points. James and Anthony Davis both made big plays down the stretch, but did not do enough to cover the spread. 

Los Angeles, CA - May 19:  LeBron James #23 high fives teammate Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers after scoring against the Golden State Warriors in the second half of a NBA basketball Western Conference Play-In game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Lakers clinched the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, thanks to a 103-100 win over the Golden State Warriors. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

The Lakers are now 32-40-1 ATS this season, including a 14-23 ATS mark at home and a 12-18 ATS record as a home favorite. With James and Davis in the lineup, the Lakers are 13-15 ATS. 

The under, though, continued to be a profitable approach to betting Lakers games. The under is now 44-28-1 in Lakers games and 18-10 when both James and Davis play. 

In baseball there was yet another no-hitter, this time courtesy of the New York Yankees' Corey Kluber in a 2-0 win over the Texas Rangers. Kluber's no-no is already the sixth of the season in MLB. 

The Los Angeles Angels had MVP favorite Shohei Ohtani on the mound and in the lineup, but they still lost to the Cleveland Indians, 3-2. 

In the NL East, Ronald Acuna launched a walk-off home run in the ninth to push the Atlanta Braves past the New York Mets, 5-4. The Braves avoided the sweep with the win, but failed to cover the run line once again. The Braves are 4-19 vs. the run line at home and 3-18 as a home favorite. 

What are we betting on today?

If you couldn't tell earlier in this post, I'm rolling with the over in the Wizards vs. Pacers game. 

I don't envision Westbrook and Beal going down without a fight, nor do I expect a career 41% 3-point shooter like Davis Bertans to go 0-for-7 from long range — especially at home. Washington played really well late in the year, and I'm not going to let one off night deter me from expecting a bounce-back performance. 

But I'm not quite confident enough to back the Wizards on the spread as a favorite. I'm anticipating a high-scoring game, and the fact that the Pacers are the best over team in the NBA (45-27-1) gives me a reasonably high level of confidence in this bet. 

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