Atlanta, Miami, and Oklahoma City – three teams with at least 19 wins at this point in the NBA season – will take the court on Friday night with a chance enhance their positions. Find out if we believe that bettors should add these teams to their NBA picks this evening.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Detroit Pistons
The Hawks enter 2013 with a 20-10 record, the product of better and more prudent performances at the offensive end of the floor. It's no idle coincidence that the Hawks have gotten better this season because they jettisoned one of their more unreliable and exasperating offensive players, shooting guard Joe Johnson. There was and is no question that Johnson is immensely skilled but he took so many bad shots and also hogged the ball, bringing ball movement to a halt. Johnson could make crunch-time jumpers from long distances in the faces of good defenders, but he would just as often mess up late-game possessions with his decision making – particularly his shot selection. Atlanta's offense is moving more freely and the ball is getting shared without Johnson around to gum things up.
The Hawks are making forward strides as a franchise. They haven't figured everything out but they are evolving and generating an appreciable degree of progress. They have two days off in advance of this game and should be able to play with great energy against Detroit. Atlanta is the prudent choice for NBA bettors to back in this spot.
NBA Pick: Hawks +1 at Bovada
Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
The Bulls supposedly got a break this past week when their December 26th game at Indiana was postponed. Chicago had to play on Christmas Night – in an ugly loss against Houston – so the Bulls probably welcomed the night off. They probably would have lost that game and so when they returned to the court on the 29th against Washington, they were able to play very active defense. The Bulls limited the Wizards to just 77 points in a comfortable win. The Bulls seemed to be in a position where they could continue to dominate mediocre opponents. However, that's precisely when Chicago fell off the path.
The Bulls, playing at home on the 31st, lost to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. What's more is that the Bulls lost by 10 points – not merely one or two possessions. Charlotte snapped its 17-game losing streak at the Bulls' expense. There cannot be a bigger indictment of a team's level of play than to lose by 10 at home to a team on a 17-game losing skid.
NBA odds makers have given the Heat a -8 point price tag, and we believe that Miami will wipe the floor with Chicago and win easily.
NBA Pick: Heat -8 at Bet365
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Philadelphia was supposed to be a next-level contender in the Eastern Conference this season. The Sixers were supposed to experience an elevation in quality similar to what the New York Knicks have in fact enjoyed to this point in time. The Hawks have also gotten better in the East but Philadelphia is not at that point. Why?
The Sixers have not yet gained one minute of playing time from their main offseason acquisition, center Andrew Bynum. It was Bynum who warred in the paint against Oklahoma City in previous playoff series between the Thunder and Bynum's Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum was and is the player who could make Philadelphia supremely competitive against the likes of Oklahoma City and San Antonio and Memphis, but without Bynum on the floor, the Sixers are simply going to be undermanned in this clash. Philadelphia is a mediocre team without Bynum and there's no other way to say as much. Oklahoma City should roll here.
NBA Pick: Thunder -10 at Bwin