The Knicks are breathing right down Atlanta's neck for the East's final playoff spot. The Wizards opened as 5.5-point favorites on NBA odds to add to the Hawks' misery with a total of 204.5 for sports bettors.
Maybe Hawks Should Tank?
It might behoove Atlanta to mail it in the rest of the season (maybe it has, losing 19 of 25). After all, would the Hawks really have any shot at winning a playoff series against Indiana or Miami? Hardly. So why not get into the lottery and maybe you win it as a super long shot and get a franchise building-block. It could be argued Atlanta hasn't had one since Dominique Wilkins.
The Hawks (30-40-1 ATS, 40-30-1 O/U at sportsbooks) looked in great playoff position as recently as March 18 when they beat a good Toronto team 118-113 in overtime for their fifth straight win. However, the Hawks have topped 100 points just once since then in the five-game skid and have been held under 87 points three times. Thursday's 100-85 loss to Portland had to be the worst of the bunch because the Hawks were home and the Blazers had been awful on the road of late.
Shooting guard Kyle Korver isn't exactly an All-Star, but apparently he's pretty important as the NBA's 3-point percentage leader has missed each of the past five Atlanta games with a back injury. He's questionable for Saturday. Over the past five games, Atlanta is just 32 of 121 (26.4 percent) from long range. Center Pero Antic also is questionable for this one. He missed Thursday's game with a sprained ankle.
Atlanta must win every remaining game to finish with a winning record, which the franchise has every year since 2008-09. That's not going to happen. However, the remaining schedule is set up where the Hawks might hang onto that No. 8 seed. After this one, seven of Atlanta's final 10 are at home, where it is 20-14. The three road games are Indiana, Brooklyn and the regular-season finale at Milwaukee, which is certainly winnable.
Wiz Fill It Up From Downtown
The Wizards are currently No. 6 in the East but could get as high as No. 5 or as low as No. 7. Obviously Washington would hugely prefer not finishing seventh because that means a first-round series with either the Pacers or Heat. A No. 5/6 seed would be a more winnable series against Toronto or Chicago.
Washington (36-34-1 ATS, 39-39 O/U at sportsbooks entering Friday) had a tough one at home against Indiana on Friday and entered that one having lost two straight and four of five. Both Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat are a bit beaten up. Beal (hip pointer) was held to only eight points in Wednesday's loss to Phoenix, his first game in single digits since Feb. 18. Gortat missed a game last week with back issues but has played the past three. The team can't afford to lose him with fellow big man Nene still out. He's hoping to return before the end of the regular season.
While the Hawks are struggling from 3-point range without Korver, Washington has four players -- Wall, Beal, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster -- with at least 100 3-pointers for the first time in franchise history. The Wizards rank No. 2 in 3-point shooting percentage behind San Antonio. Atlanta is No. 23 defending the 3-pointer.
Washington leads 2-1 and the teams have played just once in 2014. On Feb. 19 in Atlanta, the Wizards won 114-97 as 1-point underdogs on NBA odds. That was impressive because it was the second of a back-to-back for Washington as this will be. It had lost in Toronto the night before. John Wall had 21 points and 12 assists in that game against the Hawks, who rallied from a 20-point first half deficit to as close as one late in the third quarter before fading again. The Wizards were 13 of 24 from 3-point range. The win ended Washington's 11-game losing streak in Atlanta. The Hawks didn't have Antic or forward DeMarre Carroll (11.1 ppg this season).
NBA free picks: Wizards -5.5 and the over on our free NBA picks. Washington hasn't lost ATS against Atlanta in the past eight meetings and the Hawks have covered just three of their past 16 against teams with a winning record. That trumps the fact the Wizards will be playing their second game in 24 hours. The over is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.