NBA Picks: Slumping Celtics Will Cover In Hawks' Final Visit Of Season

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, December 17, 2015 6:40 PM GMT

It's barely a quarter of a way through the NBA season, but the Hawks and Celtics will play for a third time in 2015 already, and it's their final meeting in Boston. Review our NBA picks for you here.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics
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Free NBA Picks: Boston -4 ; Under 204
Best Lines Offered: at BetOnline

 

Hawks Get Better vs. 76ers
Atlanta (15-12) has looked nothing like last season's 60-win team, but then major regression was expected. There's nothing like playing the truly awful Philadelphia 76ers to cure what ails you and the Hawks ended a three-game losing streak -- all by double digits -- with a 127-106 home rout of the sorry Sixers on Wednesday.

Atlanta shot a season-high 61.5 percent (season best in points too) and never trailed. Paul Millsap had 21 points and was 7-for-8 from the field, although the power forward didn't have a single rebound for only the fourth time in his career. Jeff Teague broke out of a two-game slump  (combine 2-for-17 from the field) with 18 points. No Hawks starter played more than 28 minutes and every active player scored other than Justin Holiday.  The Hawks scored 58 points in the paint. Thirty-six of those points came on 18-for-23 shooting in the first half. It helped that the Sixers were without injured forward Nerlens Noel.

Coach Mike Budenholzer had put the team through an "intense" practice on Tuesday following ugly losses to the Thunder, Spurs and Heat. Hard to say if that was the difference or just the opponent.

The Hawks are 12-14-1 against the spread on NBA odds and 11-16 'over/under.'

 

Celtics Having Warriors Hangover?
Boston played one of the most entertaining games of this NBA season last Friday, a 124-119 double-overtime home loss to Golden State. I think the Celtics are starting to feel the effects of that emotionally and physically draining game.

The Celtics (14-12) did win the next night in Charlotte, but they were totally flat in an 89-77 home loss to Cleveland on Tuesday. And then the team was beaten 119-116 in Detroit on Wednesday. Isaiah Thomas had a season-high 38 points and Jared Sullinger 17 points and 10 rebounds in the Pistons loss. Thomas also had a game-high seven assists – more than double the amount of any other player. The Celtics outscored the Pistons by 12 points during his 38 minutes on the court. Tyler Zeller got some rare minutes off the bench and had 12 points. That loss ended a very unusual streak as Boston had won 10 straight road games at the end of a back-to-back.

Coach Brad Stevens remains without one of his best players in guard Marcus Smart. He has been out since Nov. 20 after suffering a subluxation of the proximal tibfib joint (he banged knees with a Brooklyn player). The No. 6 overall pick in last year's draft has resumed basketball activities and might return later this month. Boston is 7-7 in the 14 games he has missed. Smart is a fabulous defender. Boston's defensive rating over the 14 games Smart has missed is 100.2, 11th in the NBA in that span. But on the season, Boston is tied for fourth in the NBA with a rating of 97.8.

One wonders if Stevens will have Smart come off the bench when he returns because Thomas, formerly the sixth man, is thriving as a starter. He's averaging 21.2 points, second-best among Eastern Conference point guards (Toronto's Kyle Lowry). You also hear Smart's name mentioned in trade rumors often. The DeMarcus Cousins rumors started up again this week and the Celtics covet the Kings' big man. Boston has the pieces and draft picks to possibly entice Sacramento.

Boston is 14-11-1 ATS on NBA picks and 12-14 O/U.

 

Season Series
Tied 1-1. On Nov. 13 in Beantown, the Hawks were 1.5-point favorites at sportsbooks (total of 206.5) but lost 106-93. Thomas scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and added 10 assists to lead Boston. Starting guard Avery Bradley missed the game with a bruised lower leg. The Hawks didn't have Budenholzer on the bench due to personal reasons. Al Horford had 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but Teague was held to only six points. On Nov. 24 in Atlanta, the Hawks were -2.5 (total of 205) and won 121-97. Millsap led Atlanta with 25 points. The Hawks, who were missing Kent Bazemore and Tiago Splitter, didn't trail after the first quarter and shot 56.3 percent from the field. Bradley had 25 for Boston, which was without Smart.

The Hawks are 1-7 ATS in their past eight after a win. Boston is 4-0-1 ATS in its past five on Friday. The 'under' is 7-1 in Atlanta's past eight. The 'under' is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Boston. The home team has covered five of the past seven meetings.