Portland Trail Blazers (18-16) at Atlanta Hawks (9-26)
The Portland Trail Blazers will travel to Atlanta tonight to play the Hawks. The Blazers come into this one clinging to one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Blazers have struggled in December after a hot start, going just 5-7 on the month, but they have won two straight entering play tonight. The Hawks sport the worst record and lowest win total in the NBA. They are playing on back to back nights as they played and lost to the Toronto Raptors last night, 111-98. The Blazers are -3.5-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 207.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM PST from Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
There isn’t a lot of good that can be said about the Atlanta Hawks this year. It was by design as the Hawks are clearly in rebuild mode, but that doesn’t make the on-court product any less ugly. They don’t have much if any, veteran leadership, and they don’t even really have many building blocks for the future. It really is a sad state of affairs right now in Hot-Lanta.
The biggest issues this team has is that they turn the ball over a ton, and they can’t rebound a lick. That makes it very hard to win games when you are handing the ball to the other team, and you can’t get the ball back when they miss. They have no inside rim protection, and even though they are respectable on offense, they can’t overcome the fact that the other team gets so many more shot attempts.
With just 9 wins on the season, the Hawks season is all but over already. Hopefully for Hawks fans, they take advantage of what should be a high lottery pick next year and get a player they can build around for the future.
Portland is in the middle of a rebuild itself. The biggest difference though in Portland’s rebuild? They have Damien Lillard to build around. The budding superstar point guard is a key building block for Portland, and he is enjoying another stellar season. It is Lillard’s fifth season in the league, and the Blazers need to start winning now if they are going to be able to hold onto him long-term.
They picked up another building block last year in the draft in first-rounder Zac Collins from Gonzaga. The big man has great footwork and a soft touch but can’t say on the court this year. Collins hasn’t fully adapted to the speed of the NBA game and is constantly in foul trouble, and it has stunted his growth as he only gets to play in short bursts. They will need a big second half of the year form the big man if they want to compete for anything more than the eighth seed out west.
Atlanta stinks this year. But they are actually somewhat respectable at home. They aren’t good at home either at just 6-11, but they are much better at home than they are on the road. The sticking point for me in this one for Atlanta, is that they are playing on back to back nights. Something they have struggled badly with this season. They had to travel all the way home from Toronto after yesterday’s beating, and I wonder how much effort the Hawks are going to give tonight.
I don’t like backing the Blazers on the road, they just aren’t a very good team. But they have somehow managed to be somewhat of a road warrior team this season. They have a significantly better record on the road than they do at home this year. Seems strange but it is what it is, they are four games above .500 on the road, while they are under .500 at home. I’m not sure if that is a trend that is going to hold all season long, but as of right now they are winning on the road, and I have to take them.
I don’t love this pick, but I think Portland is the right side to back. They are rested after taking last night off, while the Hawks had to travel clear across the country and play back to back. One team is playing for a playoff spot while the other is tanking for a lottery spot. Nobody is going to blame Atlanta for taking the night off tonight, and that is what I expect to happen. Teams don’t get blown out at home very often but at only -3.5 points this game can be a competitive one, and we still have room to cover. Give me the Blazers -3.5-points on the road tonight from Atlanta!