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Vegas not ready to proclaim Wizards as favorites

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Vegas not ready to proclaim Wizards as favorites

Following a first round sweep as an underdog, the general worldview gives the Washington Wizards much more than just a puncher's chance to beat the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinals

Regardless, Las Vegas isn't ready to put the Wizards into the role of favorite.

The Hawks are -240* to win the series, which begins Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Atlanta, while the Wizards are +200, according to online oddsmakers Bovada.

(*Bettors must wager $240 on Atlanta to win $100 while a $100 bet on Washington would pay back double with a Wizards series victory)

Those are the same odds on both ends for the other East semifinal pitting favorite Cleveland against Chicago. However, the Cavaliers have betting favorite LeBron James on their side. Also, the belief is the winner of that series wins the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers 5/7

Chicago Bulls 13/4

Atlanta Hawks 7/2

Washington Wizards 12/1

Broaden out the view. Among the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, the Wizards have the highest odds to win the NBA championship as of Saturday.

Golden State Warriors 7/5

Cleveland Cavaliers 7/2

Chicago Bulls 7/1

Atlanta Hawks 12/1

Houston Rockets 12/1

Los Angeles Clippers 12/1

Memphis Grizzlies 18/1

Washington Wizards 28/1

If you liked what you saw out of the Wizards in the opening round and believe such success is sustainable, Vegas is providing a payday opportunity. Of course, proceed with caution because 1) All of this data is provided for information only 2) Washington hasn't advanced beyond this round since 1979 and 3) Pundits are not totally on board with the Wizards this round either.

CBS Sports: Four of five analysts picked the Hawks

ESPN: Nine of 13 picked the Hawks

Yahoo's Dan Devine: Hawks in six

Since I'm noting predictions from others this series, might as well man up and make a call. Assuming that:

- John Wall commits turnovers within his normal range and not what he did against the Hawks this season

- That the mismatch that is Hawks forward Paul Millsap becomes less so by using more of Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden at power forward

- The Wizards perimeter defense that stifled DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry at least makes like difficult for wings Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll

Then I'll say Wizards split the two games in Atlanta, do the same in Washington before winning Game 5 and 6 and therefore the series. 

Certainly don't make any wagers based on that last prediction.

RELATED: [Wizards' perimeter defense keys on Kyle Korver]

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For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

Winners of six of their last nine games, the Washington Wizards have breathed new life into their season, now with revitalized hopes of making the playoffs. On Monday, they will get a shot at one of the teams standing in their way.

With a 2 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington, the Wizards host the Detroit Pistons in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and the Pistons are ninth.

With a win over the Pistons, the Wizards would move into a tie for ninth, just one spot out of the playoff picture. Though more than two months remain in the regular season, the Wizards can gain some valuable ground.

Whether that is on their mind going into the match-up depends on whom you ask.

"It's definitely too early to talk about it," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"I think there are some very important games [coming up] where we go head-to-head against the guys who are around us in the standings," guard Tomas Satoransky said, singing a different tune.

Satoransky doesn't just see an opportunity against the Pistons on Monday, he mentioned Friday's game against the Magic as well. Orlando is one spot behind the Wizards in 11th.

The standings are one thing. Even more important for the big picture is head-to-head records, which determine tiebreakers for playoff seeding. The Wizards are 0-1 against the Pistons, having lost in Detroit on Dec. 26. 

A win on Monday would tie the season series with only one meeting left, on Feb. 11. If the Pistons win on Monday, they would lock up the tiebreaker.

The Wizards have reasons to be confident going into this meeting with the Pistons. While they are playing their best basketball of the season, Detroit has been in a tailspin. Going back to Dec. 3, they are 7-18. Only the Cavaliers have more losses during that stretch.

In those 25 games, the Pistons have been 28th in the NBA in offensive rating (103.6) and effective field goal percentage (49.6). They have committed the third-most turnovers per game (15.6).

Injuries haven't been the reason, but the Pistons have a few to report entering Monday's game. All-Star center Andre Drummond missed their last game on Saturday with a concussion and is considered day-to-day. Guard Ish Smith is also day-to-day after missing Saturday's game with a groin injury.

The Wizards have a chance to beat a reeling team and gain some control of their playoff hopes. We'll see if they take advantage.

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5 things to know about new Wizards guard Gary Payton II, also known as 'The Mitten'

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5 things to know about new Wizards guard Gary Payton II, also known as 'The Mitten'

The Wizards are set to add guard Gary Payton II on a 10-day contract to fill their 14th roster spot. Here are five things to know about the Wizards' newest player...

1. Payton II is the son of NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton Sr. His father made nine All-Star teams, nine All-NBA teams, won a title with the Heat on 2006 and is considered one of the best defensive players of all-time. Payton starred for the Seattle Supersonics in the 1990s, so naturally Payton II is originally from Seattle.

2. His father also had one of the best NBA nicknames of all-time. He was known as 'The Glove.' So, according to Basketball Reference, Payton II is sometimes referred to as 'The Mitten.' 

3. Payton II, a point guard, is listed at 6-foot-3 and shoots left-handed. He has appeared in 29 total NBA games split between the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He was Thomas Bryant's teammate in L.A. 

Payton II also spent time with the Portland Trailblazers in 2018-19 training camp before getting released in October. Since then, he played with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the G-League where he averaged 19.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.4 steals in 13 games.

4. Just like his father, Payton II played his college ball at Oregon State. With the Beavers, Payton II became the first player to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year twice. He averaged 2.8 steals per game in college.

5. Payton goes by Payton II, not by Payton Jr. That's because his half-brother is Gary Payton Jr. Payton Sr. named two of his sons after himself. There is also a third Payton brother named Julian, according to Payton II's college bio.

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