Will the Heat be able to bounce back after a shaky showing last night ni the Big Easy? Our top NBA picks for tonight's match between Miami & Atlanta can be located inside.
Despite being the road team tonight, the Hawks are the clear-cut NBA odds favorites, as they're laying five points in this spot. Getting a five-point head start with Miami at home is an attractive offering, there's no doubt about it.
Want to make a play on the total instead? Keep checking SBRodds for the live line movement, but for now the O/U is trading at 198. The Hawks rank seventh in the NBA in points per game, but the Heat are all the way down in 27th. Meanwhile, both teams rank in the top five in points allowed per game.
One season after losing in the NBA Finals to the Spurs, the Heat have experienced a dramatic falloff in their performances. Of course, much has changed in South Beach. LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet, moved back home to Cleveland, and that was always going to hurt the franchise.
Add in various injuries to Dwyane Wade and the awful news about Chris Bosh's blood clot, and Miami hasn't been able to remain as one of the Eastern Conference's elite this season. The Heat are 25-32 on the year, and while that's still enough for the seventh seed and a playoff seed out of the East, it's far from what Erik Spoelstra envisioned before the season begun, even without LeBron running the show.
We haven't completely lost faith with Miami though. There's still a lot of talent here, especially if Wade is able to shake off these various health knocks and show he's at full strength. The emergence of Hassan Whiteside has been nice, giving the Heat a needed inside presence, particularly now since Bosh is out for the season. Then there's the recent addition of Goran Dragic, who should fit in nicely with a Miami squad that's desperately needed a point guard presence.
Whereas the Heat have been underperforming, the Hawks have exceeded everyone's expectations this season. Termed the "Spurs of the East", Atlanta continues to pull away from the pack in the conference. They've now built up an impressive nine-game lead for the top seed, so it looks like home-court advantage throughout the playoffs is all but a formaility, barring a total collapse.
The Hawks will take a three-game winning streak into tonight's game, having gotten the better of the Bucks, Mavericks and Magic. They had some trouble fending off Orlando last night, but a big second half helped them on their way to the seven-point win. Al Horford had a great game posting 17 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, and Paul Millsap put up a nice 20/4/3 line. Four different Hawks scored at least 15 points, so it was yet another balanced effort from the conference leaders.
Now Atlanta takes the trip south to Miami in hopes of securing a fourth consecutive W. The Hawks are 19-8 on the road thus far this season and have already beaten the Heat in both meetings, including a road victory in South Beach.
The Heat have been disappointing, and they've been especially poor on their home court, but this is one occasion where we're going to back them.
Fresh off a heartbreaking loss to New Orleans, Miami quickly gets another chance to redeem themselves, and while the Hawks have obviously been a team to reckon with, they haven't been nearly as dominant out on the road here of late. They're just 2-3 over their previous five contests outside of Atlanta.
So, with our NBA picks, we're going to roll with the underdogs and pick the Heat.
Free NBA Pick: Heat +5 at Bovada