It's tough top handicap the NBA betting lines today, as the Atlanta Hawks know they are going to be the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, while the Wizards are very, very likely to be the fifth seed in the East.
The Atlanta Hawks Can Win Because…
They have built themselves on their depth. The Hawks have risen to the top of the Eastern Conference this season for a number of reasons, but one of the central ones is that they have a deep rotation that can keep the starters fresh and yet not lose many (if any) points on the scoreboard. Friday night’s win over the Charlotte Hornets was a perfect example. The Hawks’ bench scored 43 of the team’s 104 points. Dennis Schroeder, the backup point guard, hit 6 of 10 shots and scored 14 points. Mike Scott scored eight points. Several other bench players chipped in with five or six points apiece. The depth of the Hawks enabled them to win by 24 on a night when none of their five starters played more than 30 minutes. The Hawks are, in this sense, well suited for late-season basketball in which resting starters is a priority. The bench can handle the load.
Conversely, Washington is not built to play this kind of game. The Wizards sat starting point guard John Wall on Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets, and lost by 37 points, 117-80. The Wizards trailed by 13 after three quarters and then lost the fourth quarter, 42-18. Wall is simply too important to the Wizards; if he’s sitting out a full game to get ready for the playoffs, Washington – which doesn’t really need this game – is not likely to win. That’s just the reality of it all.
The Washington Wizards Can Win Because…
They are facing a team that, while admittedly deep and balanced, is still missing a couple of important players. Paul Millsap is Atlanta’s leading scorer and rebounder. It’s true that Atlanta is a team for which individual statistics don’t matter much, but the larger point with Millsap is that he gives the Hawks three-pronged production as a scorer, rebounder and defender. Atlanta needs him on the court with his 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Every team needs a player with those kinds of numbers.
The Hawks are also without Thabo Sefolosha, a long-armed small forward who helped at the defensive end of the court. He is out for the season with a fractured leg suffered in an off-court incident early Tuesday morning near a New York nightclub. Atlanta is without two valuable supporting players, and so while the bench did a lot on Friday, that same bench is going to be overextended in this game. That’s a boost for NBA Odds favorite, the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards are playing at home and while a decision on John Wall’s playing status for this game has not yet been made, the fact that he rested on Friday would point to limited (if any) involvement in this game. If Wall has a very limited role in this game, Washington’s just not going to have the scoring production needed to keep pace with Atlanta. Take the Hawks with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Atlanta +2.5 at Pinnacle