The host Hawks are the team that needs this win more, but the Blazers opened as 2-point favorites on NBA odds with a total of 207 for sports bettors.
Portland Tired Blazers
How much will Portland (38-34 ATS, 41-30-1 O/U at sportsbooks) have in the tank here? This is the team's third game in four nights and the Blazers already look worn down. The NBA's No. 2 offense was held to 94 points in a loss Saturday in Charlotte, 91 in a loss in Miami on Monday and 85 in a 10-point defeat in Orlando on Tuesday to a Magic team that had lost nine straight games.
Pretty clearly the Blazers were spent Tuesday after fighting back from a 17-point deficit against the Heat only to lose in the final seconds. It's human nature to let down a bit after facing the Heat, especially against a terrible Orlando team. Robin Lopez was 9-for-13 for 20 points along with 13 rebounds against the Magic, but the rest of the starters were 16-for-50 shooting. Portland is 14-18 in its past 32 games overall and 1-7 in its previous eight on the road.
There could be good news here, however. LaMarcus Aldridge has missed seven straight games -- Blazers are 3-4 -- with a back contusion, but he plans to return. He's officially a game-time call. Aldridge can score plenty himself, but his presence opens up so much for the perimeter players. He's not going to be 100 percent right away: Aldridge admitted running doesn't feel "normal" yet. His return would move Dorell Wright back to the bench where he belongs. He was 3-for-11 from the field for eight points against Orlando.
Knicks In Hawks'
Atlanta is trying to hold off New York for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference as the Knicks are the only team with a realistic shot to catch the Hawks for that final playoff spot. The Hawks picked a bad time to go on a four-game losing streak -- following a five-game winning run -- as New York is within two games. Atlanta does have a game in hand and is up three in the loss column (for now).
The Hawks (30-39-1 ATS, 40-29-1 O/U at sportsbooks) barely showed up Wednesday night in Minnesota, losing 107-83. Point guard Jeff Teague was held scoreless for Atlanta for the first time this year. He averaged 16.1 ppg. The Hawks shot 37.8 percent overall, while allowing the Timberwolves to hit 50 percent.
Starting guard Kyle Korver (12.3 ppg, NBA-leading 48.6 shooting from 3-point range) missed his third straight game Wednesday night with back spasms and wasn't with the team on its trip to Minnesota. Shelvin Mack started the first two games of Korver's absence but didn't do much. Coach Mike Budenholzer opted to go with a bigger starting five against the Wolves by inserting power forward Mike Scott into Mack's place, leaving Atlanta with a single guard (Teague) among the starters. Scott did fairly well with 15 points and seven assists in 31 minutes. With Portland No. 1 in the NBA in rebounding and Atlanta No. 28, the Hawks could keep Scott in there Thursday if Korver is out again.
Portland routed visiting Atlanta 102-78 on March 5 as a 9.5-point betting favorite. The Blazers had six players score in double figures. Nicolas Batum had 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Aldridge was 1-for-13 from the field for 10 points, but the Blazers were still plus-21 with him on the court. Atlanta played without its best player in Paul Millsap. The Hawks were simply terrible offensively, shooting 33 percent overall and 14.8 percent from long range. Korver's NBA-record streak of 127 consecutive games with a 3-pointer ended as he was 0-for-5. Atlanta's starting five totaled all of 34 points with Teague the high man at 10. Portland is going for its first season series win over Atlanta since 2007-08.
NBA free picks: Portland -2 and the under 207.5 points on free NBA picks if Aldridge plays. His return, even at less than full strength, should energize a Blazers club that badly needs it. Go Hawks if he doesn't play. Atlanta has covered only five of its past 16 in the second of back-to-back. The under is 7-0 in the past seven meetings.