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Strong Late Season Efforts

Strong Late Season Efforts

Strong Late Season Efforts
By Joe Nelson

With less than two weeks left in the NBA season, it is clear that some teams are playing hard to the end and some teams seem to be ready for the season to be over. A team’s record and place in the playoff picture does not always dictate the effort a team is bringing late in the year. Here are four teams that are out of the playoff picture that are still competing well down the stretch and can perhaps help you to a strong finish to the regular season.

Minnesota Timberwolves: At 28-46, Minnesota’s recent surge has caught the attention of the linesmakers and it has cost the franchise a few extra shots in the lottery picture, currently slated to have the 10th best chance to win the top pick after recently passing a few teams. Minnesota was 12-8 in mid-December, but injuries kept mounting, leading to mostly miserable results in January and February. The Wolves are 6-5 in the last 11 games, however, with a recent surge and the last three wins have come against teams that will be in the playoffs. Rick Adelman's team is on a 10-4 ATS run and this is a team that could play spoiler down the stretch with two upcoming games with a Utah Jazz team fighting for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Minnesota also could have nice underdog value on the road with upcoming games against the Warriors and Clippers. The offensive numbers for Minnesota have been climbing in recent weeks and this is team that could have something to build on for next year if they can finally get all the pieces on the court healthy at the same time.
New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets will likely end up with one of the worst records in the league, but they have 10 road wins and this is a young team that is playing hard most nights. New Orleans has only been outscored by 3.4 points per game on average this season, despite the 26-49 overall record and this team has won four of the last five home games with the only loss coming against Miami. In March, New Orleans picked up wins over Portland, Boston, Memphis, and the streak-stopper against the Nuggets as this team can compete with quality teams. Greivis Vasquez and Brian Roberts have both emerged in the New Orleans backcourt and Anthony Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu are showing the promise that made them high draft picks. New Orleans will play five of its final seven games of the season on the road and they will host quality teams in the final two home games, so there could be underdog value opportunities on a Hornets team that is giving a much more reliable effort than most of the other teams with losing records.

Sacramento Kings: The season for the Kings have been marred by the uncertainty surrounding the future of the franchise and while it will be another losing year for the Kings, there have been some signs of promise in the first season under Keith Smart. The Kings have been erratic with the ability to beat good teams convincingly on occasion, while also suffering lopsided losses with regularity. Sacramento is a respectable 8-9 in the last 17 games and this squad does own a winning record at home on the season. In the last month, the Kings have wins over the Bulls, Clippers, and Warriors, and six of the last eight losses have come by seven or fewer points as this team is competing on most nights. The Kings have only won eight road games all season, but two of those wins have come in the last two road games and this is a squad that appears ready to finish the season on a high note. It remains to be seen if this group of players will stick together, but there is talent on this team and between Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Isaiah Thomas, and Tyreke Evans, there are a lot of options to carry this team on any given night.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards should be the most obvious team for inclusion on this list as this team has not just been competitive; they have been excellent in the last two months. This team started the season 4-28 and has gone 24-19 since. At home, Washington has rivaled the top teams in the league, going 18-4 S/U and 17-5 ATS since early January. Washington has been prone to losing occasionally on the road against bad teams with recent losses at Toronto, Orlando, Charlotte, and Cleveland, but this team gets up for top competition with recent home wins over Chicago and Memphis. A lighter second half schedule has played a role in the rise for the Wizards, but it has been encouraging run with John Wall really emerging as the player he was drafted to be in recent weeks and this team is looking like a possible playoff contender next season. Washington plays playoff teams in six of the final seven games of the season and the Wizards are capable of winning any of those games.

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