Boston Celtics @ Atlanta Hawks -1.5
Hi. Remember me? It’s the NBA. Welcome back, we missed you…
After a thrilling weekend of college hoops where most of the country, yours truly included, sort of ‘forgot’ about the NBA for a few days, it’s time to get back to the big boys and get back to picking some winners. A few interesting things unfolded over the weekend while most of us were away. King James and the Heat sent a nice still reminder to Superman that the East is still a two team race; the Magic can be a plucky third place team, but the road to the hardware is absolutely going through Chicago and Miami.
The Lakers also made some waves this weekend. First, by pulling their all-too-frequent what the hell happened? game, this time losing at home to the Utah Jazz. The second news-worthy item was much more splashy , dealing long-time Laker stalwart Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets (who promptly bought out the contract, leaving Fisher in an interesting, and likely temporary, no-man’s land). The deal signifies a strong interest in the Lakers investing more minutes in their younger and quicker point guards prior to the Playoffs, though I am not exactly sure the addition of Ramon Sessions gives any credence to the notion the Lakers can really win the West.
Things are heating up down the stretch of the lockout-shortened regular season with just about twenty games remaining for most teams as they jockey for playoff positioning. One of those key positioning battles takes place tonight in Atlanta when the Celtics try to inch a little closer to the Hawks, and perhaps more importantly, out of the dreaded seventh and eighth spots in the East which mean an opening round date with the Heat or Bulls.
These teams have an interesting recent head-to-head history, splitting 2-2, with three of the four games being won by the home team. The most recent matchup was an 88-83 Atlanta victory at the Garden. Atlanta is on the second night of a back-to-back, but last night was a pretty easy victory at Cleveland. Boston had a day to rest yesterday after being swept over the weekend in back-to-backs by Denver and Sacramento.
I like Atlanta at home tonight, and the numerical trends agree with me. Boston is just 2-11 ATS in their last 13 road games. Atlanta is 8-2 in their last ten games ATS overall. Atlanta is also a tough matchup for the Hawks, as they excel in every position where Boston is getting a little long in the tooth. They have no answer for the athleticism of Josh Smith, and Pierce will have his hands full keeping Joe Johnson in check. The two are a similar physical matchup in terms of body type and size, but Johnson has a little more spring in his step at this point in his career for the less-than-fleet Pierce.
Laying just one and a half at home on the better team is a pretty unique proposition in the NBA – it doesn’t happen too often. Perhaps Vegas is putting a little too much stock in the “no days rest harming the team” theory. It is usually a good one to bank on. However, Atlanta is 10-2 ATS on the back end of consecutive games. That’s 83%. And that’s good enough for me. Give me the Hawks laying the slim point and a half.
Free Pick: Atlanta Hawks -1.5