Play the 'Total' for Bulls vs. Wizards

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, April 5, 2014 12:45 PM GMT

It's quite possibly a first-round Eastern Conference playoff preview on Saturday night when Chicago and Washington meet for the final time this regular season.

It's the second of a back-to-back for both teams. The game opened as a pick'em on NBA odds with a total of 185.5 for sports bettors.


Three's Company
Chicago entered Friday's action deadlocked with Toronto for the East's No. 3 seed. If they finished tied the Raptors would be the third seed as a division winner. Why would getting the No. 3 be potentially so important? First off, it likely means avoiding a very tough opening-round series against current No. 5 Brooklyn. It's also vital because it looks as if Indiana might stay at No. 2 in the East with its massive struggles since the All-Star Break. If chalk held in the first round the No. 3 seed would play the No. 2 Pacers in the conference semifinals while the No. 4 would play the Heat. Chicago firmly believes it can beat Indiana but realistically knows it can't beat Miami in a seven-game series.

The Bulls (18-18-1 ATS, 19-18 O/U on road at sportsbooks) had won three straight and five of six heading into Friday's home game against Milwaukee. Since the beginning of March, the Bulls have allowed 100 points or more just twice: a 104-96 home loss to San Antonio on March 11 and a 107-102 win at Boston on March 30. Chicago is all but a lock to finish last in scoring for the second straight season and in the Top 3 in scoring defense. It could still pass Indiana for the top spot in points allowed as the Pacers are just .1 ahead.

The Bulls likely wouldn't be where they are without having signed D.J. Augustin in mid-December after he was cut by Toronto and the Bulls had lost Derrick Rose (again). Augustin is averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 assists in Chicago. He had a 33-point game Sunday against Boston and 23 in Wednesday's 13-point victory in Atlanta. Augustin says he wants to re-sign with Chicago, but he has shown enough that the Bulls, tight up against the cap, likely can't afford him. That same thing happened with Nate Robinson a year ago.

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Playoff-Clinching Hangover?
The Wizards are currently the No. 6 seed but could get to No. 5 (1.5 games back of Nets entering Friday) or down to No. 7 (two games ahead of Bobcats). How will this team handle success? The Wizards clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2008 with Wednesday's 118-92 home win over Boston. Sometimes teams without strong leadership will simply coast the rest of the season after officially getting in the postseason for the first time in years.

Really, the Wizards have the talent to be better than their record. Here's proof: Washington (15-21-1 ATS, 17-20 O/U at home at sportsbooks) has lost 11 games this season in which it had a lead of at least 10 points. The team could really be dangerous in the playoffs if Nene gets back healthy by then. He has been out with Feb. 23 with a left knee ligament strain but is now targeting Wednesday's potentially important game against Charlotte for his return. That would give Nene about 10 days to get into game conditioning before the postseason begins. When he returns that would give Washington six players averaging double-figure points along with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat and Martell Webster. It also vastly improves Washington's defense and rebounding.


Season Series
The Wizards go for the very rare sweep of Chicago. On Jan. 13 in Chicago the Wizards won 102-88 behind 19 from Wall and Nene. The Wizards shot 52 percent and never trailed. It was the Bulls' first loss post-Luol Deng trade to Cleveland  a week earlier and only their second home loss in the past 11 against the Wizards. Four days later in Washington the Wizards won 96-93. Wall had 23 points and 11 assists as the Wizards topped 50 percent shooting (50.6) again. The Bulls had just one field goal in the final 5:16.


NBA free picks:
Wizards at pick'em and under. Washington is 6-1 ATS in its past seven in the second of a back-to-back. Chicago is 1-6 ATS in its past seven at Washington. The under is 6-1 in the Wizards' past seven home games.

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