Hawks +2 vs. Celtics for NBA Picks

Jason Lake

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 12:36 PM GMT

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 12:36 PM GMT

It’s Tank Time for the Boston Celtics. They’ve lost five games in a row, but for some reason, they’ve opened as 2-point favorites on the NBA lines for Wednesday’s matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 25 inclusive:

69-54-1 ATS

18-14 Totals

You can’t blame the Boston Celtics for tanking. You can blame the NBA for creating a league where the only real competition is between cities, to see which ones will pony up the most public money for a lavish arena. But the Celtics losing 22 of their last 28 games since New Year’s Eve at 12-16 ATS? That’s just what’s best for business. As we go to press, Boston (19-39 SU, 27-30-1 ATS) has fallen all the way to No. 26 in the NBA standings. How would Julius Randle look in Kelly Green? How about Aaron Gordon?

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks (26-30 SU, 27-28-1 ATS) have lost nine of their last 10 games at 1-8-1 ATS, capped off with Tuesday’s 107-103 heartbreaker against the Chicago Bulls (–2.5 away). But the Hawks aren’t trying to tank – not yet, anyway. They’re still in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Nope, Atlanta’s problems have more to do with injuries. And things are only getting worse as the Hawks hit the road to face Boston on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET). The early NBA lines have Atlanta laying two points with a total of 200.

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The Big Snit

It’s quite amazing that the Hawks are still in a playoff spot. They lost their MVP, center Al Horford (22.1 PER), way back on Dec. 26 with a torn pectoral muscle. But that didn’t stop them. Then No. 2 center Pero Antic (12.4 PER) went down on Jan. 23 with a stress fracture in his right ankle. That didn’t stop them. Not at first, anyway.

Next up was No. 3 center Gustavo Ayon (12.9 PER), who suffered a bruised right shoulder last week and has yet to rejoin the lineup. And if that weren’t bad enough, starting power forward Paul Millsap (19.9 PER) collided knee-on-knee with Greg Monroe in Friday’s 115-107 loss to the Detroit Pistons (–4 at home). He won’t be back in time for Wednesday’s matchup.

Full credit to the Hawks, then, for hanging tough with Chicago with a starting frontcourt featuring 6-foot-8 DeMarre Carroll (14.1 PER) and 6-foot-9 Elton Brand (13.4 PER). The only other big man on the regular roster is 6-foot-8 Mike Scott (18.1 PER), so Atlanta went out and signed Dexter Pittman (6-foot-11) to a 10-day contract. He played two minutes off the bench as the Hawks stuck mostly to a seven-man rotation. By the time all was said and done, Bulls center Joakim Noah had 20 points and 12 rebounds as Chicago’s bigs overcame Jeff Teague’s 26-point night for Atlanta.

Strange Brew

In theory, the Celtics have enough beef on the frontline to cause Atlanta headaches. In theory. Their best player this year, center Jared Sullinger (16.9 PER), got whacked in the head during Friday’s 101-92 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (–1 at home), and was eventually diagnosed with a concussion. He hasn’t played since. Kris Humphries (17.5 PER) has been elevated to the starting lineup in Sullinger’s place, but he’s really a power forward, and Humphries is also playing at less than 100 percent because of a sore – well, pretty much everything below his neck is sore.

Vitor Faverani (11.2 PER) is out of commission with a sprained left knee, so that leaves rookie Kelly Olynyk (13.3 PER) to soak up major minutes off the Celtics bench, with the occasional rare appearance from fellow Canadian Joel Anthony (9.2 PER). That wasn’t enough to get the job done in Monday’s 110-98 loss to the lottery-bound Utah Jazz (–4). It probably won’t be enough on Wednesday, either.

NBA Pick: Take the Hawks +2 at Heritage

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