The Hawks and Raptors won their respective divisions last season and are leading them again right now. They meet for the first time this season on Wednesday, with the Hawks at -3 on BetOnline's NBA odds with a total of 198.
Raptors Have East's Highest-Scoring Duo
Toronto (11-7) took a four-game winning streak, with three of them coming on the road, into Sunday night's game as a solid favorite against visiting Phoenix, but the Suns pulled off a 107-102 upset. The Raptors were in the second of a back-to-back so that likely played a role. Raptors coach Dwane Casey warned his team that the Suns were a good 3-point shooting team and to be aware of that, but Phoenix still hit 11 of them. Trailing by three, the Raptors had a chance to send the game into overtime with a second left on the clock. But the Suns disrupted the play the Raptors' play and in a scramble Luis Scola’s 3-point attempt was blocked by Eric Bledsoe. That was the 11th game the Raptors have played this season where the score was separated by five (or fewer) points with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Toronto fell to 5-6 in those 11.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 29 points against Phoenix, while Kyle Lowry had 17 points and eight assists. Toronto is the only Eastern Conference team with two players averaging 20.0 points. DeRozan is averaging 21.2 points -- he is 12 points away from 8,000 career -- and Lowry 20.7 points. Lowry leads the NBA averaging 2.61 steals and has had at least one in every game.
This will be a homecoming for Toronto forward DeMarre Carroll. This offseason, the former Hawk signed a four-year, $60 million free-agent deal with Toronto. Carroll had been a seldom-used journeyman since entering the league in 2009 with Memphis but blossomed into a very good player, especially on defense, in two seasons with Atlanta. He made only $5 million over two seasons with them. Atlanta essentially had to choose between re-signing Paul Millsap or Carroll and the team went with Millsap. Carroll is averaging 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds this season.
The Raptors are 12-6 against the spread on NBA odds and 7-11 'over/under.'
Hawks Pull Minor Upset Of Thunder
I previewed Atlanta's home game against Oklahoma City on Monday and recommended the Thunder at -2. Alas, the Hawks (12-8) won 106-100 to improve to 9-1 when scoring 100 or more points. Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague took over down the stretch and finished with 25 points to snap the Thunder's four-game winning streak. Millsap had 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Hawks swingman Kent Bazemore forced the Thunder's Russell Westbrook into a crucial late turnover. Bazemore began the season as a starter but has started only one of three games since coming back from an ankle injury. He was brought in on that possession for defense as he's very solid on that role. Thabo Sefolosha has taken over as the starter in Carroll's former spot. Sefolosha was plus-2 against the Thunder in a season-high 39 minutes despite not scoring. He's a fabulous defender.
Atlanta center Tiago Splitter missed a fifth straight game Monday with a hip injury and isn't expected to play against Toronto. The Hawks are 7-3 at home this season and are shooting .474 from the field there, third-best among all teams in their home gyms behind Golden State and Cleveland, the two NBA championship betting favorites. Atlanta is 9-10-1 ATS on NBA picks and 10-10 'over/under.'
While Atlanta topped the Eastern Conference with a franchise-record 60 wins in 2014-15, the Hawks were only 1-3 against the Raptors. It should be noted that two of those Toronto wins were early in the season before Atlanta really took off. The last meeting was in Atlanta on Feb. 20 and the Raptors rolled to a 105-80 victory in the first game after the All Star break. The Raptors' DeRozan finished with 20+ points in three of the four games against Atlanta, averaging a team-best 22.0 points. These teams were aligned to meet in the second round of the playoffs with the Hawks as the No. 1 seed and the Raptors as the No. 4, but Toronto was swept in the first round by Washington.
NBA Picks: Give the points, go 'over' the total at BetOnline. Toronto is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 after a loss and, oddly, 0-8 ATS in its past eight vs. teams from the Southeast Division. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The 'over' is 7-3 in Toronto's past 10 road games vs. teams with a winning road record. it is 5-2 in Atlanta's past seven after a win.