The Denver Nuggets actually look like a legitimate NBA team again since making a coaching change. Can they upset the visiting Hawks on Wednesday night? Atlanta is a 6-point favorite on NBA odds at BetOnline with a total of 210.
Full-Time Job for Hunt?
There can be no argument that the Nuggets had tuned out former head coach Brian Shaw, and he was fired in his second season last Tuesday. They were 20-39 under Shaw and had lost six straight games overall and 10 in a row at home. Reportedly Shaw had complained to management about the maturity of his players, and it's known Shaw had at least one run-in with star point guard Ty Lawson. In a team huddle during a game on Feb. 27 against Utah, the players broke the huddle with a chant of "1-2-3 ... Six weeks!" The six weeks was clearly to mean that's how long until the end of the season.
So Denver promoted assistant Melvin Hunt to interim head coach. He was is in his fifth season with Denver after five seasons as a Cavaliers assistant coach. Whatever Hunt is doing appears to be working. The Nuggets (23-41) slaughtered the visiting New York Knicks 106-78 on Monday to improve to 3-2 under Hunt while scoring in triple digits in every game. Kenneth Faried, who might be a trade candidate after this season, had 19 points and 11 rebounds vs. New York. Wilson Chandler had 17 points -- another trade candidate -- but left with a sore left knee so he might have to sit this one out. Rookie center Jusuf Nurkic remains out.
I actually think the Nuggets could give the full-time job to Hunt if they finish strong. Former Nuggets star and coach Dan Issel says he doesn't see the team hiring a big-name coach because "they in the past haven't spent the money." I tend to agree. That reportedly was one reason why George Karl left after a very successful 2012-13 season. Hunt would certainly come cheap. This could be a good job as soon as after next season if the right moves are made. The Nuggets will have their own lottery pick this year and have the option of swapping first-round picks with the Knicks in 2016. Plus Denver gets Portland's protected first-rounder next year.
Denver is 25-36-3 against the NBA betting spread this season and 25-36-3 'over/under' as well.
Hawks Ready to Coast
I would be wary of betting on Atlanta (50-13) the rest of the regular season. Why? The Hawks have a double-digit lead atop the Eastern Conference so I fully expect Coach Mike Budenholzer to start giving some of his key guys rest here and there. It's not worth going all-out simply to get the top overall seed in the NBA for a matchup with the Western Conference champion.
Budenholzer did sit starters Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll last Saturday in Philadelphia the night after a big home win over Cleveland. To no surprise, the Hawks lost to the lousy 76ers. Everyone was back in the lineup Monday and Atlanta pulverized visiting Sacramento 130-105. The points were a season high and the Hawks hit a team-record 20 3-pointers. All five Hawks starters scored in double figures. Atlanta had 42 assists, an NBA-high this year and the team's most since 1993. It is now 12-1 this season when recording at least 30 assists. The Hawks got their 50th win the 63rd game, by far the quickest in franchise history.
This game starts a season-high six-game road trip. Atlanta is 41-21-1 against the spread and 31-32 'over/under' on NBA Odds.
Atlanta hosted Denver as a 6-point favorite on NBA odds (total of 211) on Dec. 7 and the Hawks won 96-84. It was their sixth straight win at the time. Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 23 points. Denver, which missed 23 of its first 32 field-goal attempts, was paced by Chandler's 29 points and 10 rebounds. Lawson was held to just four points. The Nuggets were without the injured Faried, Nate Robinson and JaVale McGee -- the latter two are elsewhere now. Denver shot 36.6 percent from the field overall and was 6-for-35 from long range. The Nuggets have won seven consecutive home games against Atlanta, with the Hawks’ last road victory coming in December 2006.
NBA Free Picks: Give the points and go 'under' 210 points with your NBA Picks-- assuming the Hawks play all their guys. Denver has covered only two of its past nine at home. The 'under' is 4-0 in Atlanta's past four on the road and 6-1 in the Nuggets' past seven at home.