Look to Spread with Hawks vs. Raptors NBA Picks

Joe Gavazzi

Friday, January 16, 2015 5:50 PM GMT

This is a matchup of 2 of the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference. At this write up, Toronto sits 4 ½ games behind Atlanta for the best record in the East. 

Atlanta Hawks vs. Toronto Raptors (-1) 7:35 ET
This is a matchup of 2 of the top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference.  At this write up, Toronto sits 4 ½ games behind Atlanta for the best record in the East.  Curiously enough, Toronto has already won a pair from Atlanta by counts of 126-15 and 109-102.  But, each of those games occurred in November, before the fortunes of these 2 teams changed directions. No major edge for Toronto in the matchup due to their 16-5 SU home record on this court.  For, Atlanta is 15-5 SU on the road with a 16-4 ATS mark as traveler. Let’s take a look at each team to find out where the value lies in this matchup.

Toronto started the year on a 13-2 SU blitz as the best team in the East.  The last of those wins was that 2nd victory at Atlanta.  Since that time, however, Toronto has gone just 13-10 SU. Much of that downturn coincided with the absence of top scorer, DeMar DeRozan (who recently returned to action after a groin injury with a 20 point outing against Philly). Nevertheless, Toronto enters this game on a 1-6 ATS slide. Their problems have gone beyond the loss of the scoring of DeRozan.  For in the last 11 games, the Raptors have yielded an average of 108 PPG, adn this is something you have to think about when looking over the NBA odds. That will be a long-term issue for the Raptors as they currently have the 4th worst defense in the East, behind only losing teams, Boston, Philly and New York.  Clearly, this team does not deserve even the smallest of favorite roles against an Atlanta team, who is playing the best ball in the East.

After a 5-5 SU start, the Hawks are on a surge of 26-3 SU, 24-5 ATS. This includes winning and covering each of their previous 10 games. Lest you believe all those victories have come against the weak links of the East, consider that Atlanta has also defeated Portland, the LA Clippers (both away) and Memphis in this timeframe.  Those are 3 of the top 6 teams in the much stronger Western Conference.  Much of the Atlanta surge has been keyed by defense.  In that 5-5 SU start, Atlanta was allowing 104 PPG.  Despite that beginning, Atlanta has the best defense in the East allowing just 96.7 PPG. That No. 1 defense is augmented by the NBA’s No. 1 assist/TO ratio.  It is no coincidence that HC Budenholzer is a former San Antonio assistant; the World Champion Spurs annually are among the league leaders in that category.

With the return of DeRozan, Toronto’s fortunes will certainly improve. That is especially true when facing the weaker opposition in the East, who they merely can outscore.  But against the No. 1 defense in the conference, that is a whole different story. The fact that Atlanta is motivated by double revenge makes this all the sweeter. Take the best team in the East as your NBA picks with the best defense in the league as underdog with a viable motive to come to play.

NBA Pick: Take Atlanta Hawks -1 at 5Dimes