The Atlanta Hawks travel to Boston as both teams jockey for playoff position. The NBA oddsmakers have installed the Green as favorites but where does the value lie in this clash of Eastern Conference foes?
Swinging Johnson - NBA Record (9-9, -5.3 units)
*Games assigned 1 to 5 units.
If it wasn't for this damn point spread we'd be winning every game. Maybe that's a hint that I'm a bit too prone to laying the lumber. You see the balancing act is ignoring which team is better because we can all do that with a fair degree of accuracy, but just how much better? Yeah, I know it's sports betting 101 but last night the Thunder barely got by the Knicks despite the fact that New York's top gun, Carmelo Anthony was ruled out due to injury. The NBA oddsmakers made OKC five point favorites at the time of yesterday's article but that shot up to -8 at game time. That spread would have definitely made this game a pass for me but we lost 2 units nonetheless as I took a plunge at Okie City -5.
However, we did cash with one of our NBA picks as the Nuggets as we found out they were worthy of the 4 point handicap and blew away the Clippers 107-92 at the Pepsi Center in Mile High. That was a 3 unit play and put us in the black for the night. Now we just have to get back in black (anyone hear AC/DC in the distance?) for the season.
Atlanta Hawks (34-26 SU, 28-30-2 ATS)
The Hawks returned briefly from the road on Wednesday night to dismantle the 76'ers 107-96 in front of their home crowd. It was a welcome result after dropping their three previous games to the Suns, Lakers and Nuggets. The Hawks must have been ecstatic to be on their home court after playing six of their last seven games on the highway.
But on Friday night they will return to the road with a quick visit to Boston and then jump back on a plane to host the Nets in Atlanta on Saturday night. It has been a rigorous stretch in the schedule for the Hawks but they still hold the 5th seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference with the Bulls and Celtics nipping at their heels.
Though the starters have had to play plenty of minutes in a short span of time, the Hawks have to be optimistic about the emergence of reserve power forward Anthony Tolliver who collected 21 points against Philadelphia coming off the bench while the big man in the middle Al Horford has proven how important he can be when fully healthy, averaging 24.8 points, shooting 66% and grabbing almost 12 boards PPG over the last nine games.
Boston Celtics (33-27 SU, 28-29-3 ATS)
Head coach Doc Rivers has worked some kind of voodoo magic since All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo tore an ACL on January 25th against these same Atlanta Hawks in a heartbreaking 123-111 double overtime loss. It was the sixth straight loss in a row for a team already reeling and now without arguably their best player for the remainder of the season. Once again the Boston media reflected the opinion of many of the fans and couldn't wait for GM Danny Ainge to blow up the team and look towards the future.
But a funny thing happened. Ainge stayed put and held on to Garnett (who must approve any trade), Pierce and the backbone of the team. Doc Rivers realized the necessity of establishing a team concept as opposed to running everything through Rondo who was the undisputed quarterback of the team. Well, the Celtics are 14-4 since Rondo went down and have won and covered their last four contests with their last performance being one of their most impressive, an 83-81 victory over the Indiana Pacers, on the road...as nine point underdogs.
The two teams have split the series thus far, with the road team winning each time. But here we have a Celtics team that is truly rolling right now and will have Saturday to rest while the Hawks, already road weary, must play yet another game tomorrow night against a talented Brooklyn Nets team.
I like the home chalk here and believe the Celtics have got a mojo going for them that didn't exist when Rondo was pounding the ball into the court for 21 seconds and then dishing off to a harried teammate who had to drain the rock pronto or hear the buzzer echo throughout the arena. I have to agree with the NBA odds makers who believe this will be a tight, defensive battle as reflected by the rather modest total of 189.
Two Free NBA Picks Tonight -
Celtics -4 for 3 units at BookmakerUNDER 189 for 3 units at Bovada