You would think for a team that had designs on challenging for the Eastern Conference crown that a twenty point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves would be rock bottom. It turns out, for the Washington Wizards, it wasn’t even close. Last night they fell 89-81 to the Philadelphia 76’ers who partied like it was 2021 (cheesy joke –but that should be when they are finally competitive with all the future draft picks they keep trading for). For Washington, they are now just a ½ game ahead of Milwaukee for fifth in the East and their hopes of having home court advantage for even a round of the playoffs feels bleak.
Here’s a weird possible coincidence – IF the Pacers are able to sneak in and steal the eighth playoff spot – and their odds look even better after last night’s Pistons and Heat losses, then their likely opponent would be the Atlanta Hawks in the #1/#8 matchup. Last year, as the #1 seed Indiana faced… Atlanta as the eighth seed. I am not sure that has ever happened before, and if it has, major roster developments would have led to the result. As improbable as it sounds, if Paul George is actually able to get back in time to be 90% of the PG of 2013, you could be looking at one heckuva first round set of series; Golden State vs. OKC and ATL vs. Indy… wow. Add in possible Memphis vs. San Antonio, Rockets vs. Mavs, Portland vs. Clippers? Best. Playoffs. Ever.
We notched another NBA winner last night to move to 9-1 ATS post All-Star Break. Let’s see if we can keep it rolling tonight…
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Today’s Free Pick:
Atlanta Hawks -5.5 at Miami Heat
Before I get any “you hate the Heat” posts and emails – I do NOT hate the Heat. I promise. I thought they’d be the third or fourth best team in the East this year. I was clearly wrong. On paper, with a healthy Bosh, this is a good collection of parts. I just didn’t think they were ready to beat Cleveland, Atlanta, Toronto or Chicago in a seven game series. Hence – they won’t advance past the first round of the playoffs prediction.
Anyhow. That said, objectively, you have to like Atlanta tonight. The Heat are playing the second game of a back-to-back, fresh off a two point loss to the Pelicans last night in NOLA. The Hawks also played last night, winning at home against Orlando in a less-than-awesome performance. However, this season, Miami is 5-8 on the backend of back-to-backs while the Hawks are 10-2 with seven straight wins.
The reason, in my opinion, is obvious. The Heat are an older, more fragile team. Wade and Bosh have battled injuries most of the season, Whiteside plays restricted minutes and the rest of the team, frankly, isn’t very good. Dragic helps a little and fills the black hole they had a point guard, but it still isn’t enough to carry them.
Atlanta had a little regression to the mean before and after the Break, but seem to have righted the ship. They aren’t as benign as contender as some still want to believe, but they may not be quite as good as Cleveland either (they did lose last night to Indy, but it was with LeBron resting). Atlanta has won four in a row against the Heat, covering in each win, and enters tonight on three game winning streak. Miami is 3-3 in their last six games but just 1-4-1 ATS.
Atlanta is the better team and they are much better on a quick turnaround than are the Heat. Miami is 0-5 ATS in their last five games against teams with a winning record. Atlanta certainly fits in the column as the best team record-wise in the East. I’ll fade Miami for a second straight night and take the Hawks to win and cover on the road.