One day after covering against Golden State, the Charlotte Hornets travel to the Dirty South to face the Atlanta Hawks, who just beat the NBA odds against New Orleans. Don’t expect much defense in this one.
Jason’s record as of Nov. 28: 12-10 ATS
Things did not look good for the Charlotte Hornets going into Friday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors. They still don’t look very good. Nonetheless, the Hornets (+8.5) beat the NBA odds in a competitive 106-101 loss. And they did it with a surprise starting lineup that included Lance Stephenson – as well as Cody Zeller. Could this be the start of something big in the Queen City?
We’ll get another look at the new-look Hornets on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET) when they visit the Atlanta Hawks, who are coming off a 100-91 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans (+2.5 away). The NBA odds were pending for this matchup as we went to press, which can happen when two teams are both playing the second of back-to-back games. Something should be available by the time you read this.
So as it turned out, Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford did not demote Stephenson – he merely benched him during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, just as Clifford had in Monday’s loss to the L.A. Clippers. Then he talked openly in the press about Stephenson’s struggles. But on Friday, Stephenson was back in the starting five, and he made it all the way to the fourth quarter this time, finishing with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
Still not the stuff of legends. But there were more surprises: Marvin Williams was a late scratch with a shoulder injury, allowing Zeller to get the start at power forward. Big improvement. Zeller had 15 points and 14 rebounds, getting to the line on a regular basis and clogging things up for Golden State’s frontline. Williams (9.5 PER) has already been ruled out for Saturday, so we’ll presumably see more of Zeller (13.6 PER) against Atlanta. It’s a step in the right direction.
Singing for the Swingman
We’d like to think the Hawks (8-6 SU, 7-7 ATS) are trending upward, too. They’ve won three of their last four games SU and ATS since getting DeMarre Carroll (13.6 PER), their only “true” small forward, back in the starting rotation. Long-time NBA handicappers will be used to dealing with players coming in and out of the lineup almost at random, but it seems to happen more often these days, as the players break down and get patched up just as quickly. Ah, the wonders of deer antler spray and plasma-rich injections.
Carroll was very much alive against the Pelicans on Friday, pouring in 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He was one of six Atlanta players to score in double figures that night; leading the way was Jeff Teague (21.0 PER) with 26 points and seven assists, with able support from back-up point guard Dennis Schroder (20.3 PER), who added 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench. Schroder has been a revelation in his second year in the NBA after cutting his teeth in his native Germany.
In theory, noted defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha (11.5 PER) can play small forward for Atlanta, too, but he’s more of a shooting guard – and he’s also one of many players across the league who’s come down with flu-like symptoms. Sefolosha has missed the past two games for the Hawks; his availability for Saturday is unknown at press time.
It’s hard to add either of these teams to our NBA picks given their current situations, but we’re more than happy to recommend the OVER, which is 9-5 for the Hawks this year and 10-7 for the Hornets. Neither team has played well on defense, with Charlotte checking in at No. 22 in defensive efficiency (105.5) and Atlanta even worse at No. 26 (107.2). No Thabo, no peace.
Free NBA Pick: Take the OVER at 5Dimes