The Atlanta Hawks are off to a surprisingly fast start this season. They've won 9 straight games and look to make it an even ten. Last night, Orlando was without Nikola Vucevic, but tonight, he's back in the starting lineup. Will we see the same results or will Orlando flip the script on the hot Hawks?
Tip-off is scheduled for tonight at 7:00 pm ET at the Amway Center, in Orlando Florida. This game can be seen on FSFL.
5Dimes Sportsbook lists Atlanta as a modest 3.5 point road favorite and the total for the game is listed at 193 on the NBA odds board. I think that 3.5 points are not a lot for a team riding a 9 game winning streak and facing a sub.500 team in the Magic who are trying to find themselves. Let's take a look and see if the Hawks are the correct NBA pick in this spot.
Last Night's Game
The best way to look at a home and home is to go to the previous night. Friday night, the Hawks defeated the Magic in Atlanta, 87-81. Paul Millsap led the way for the Hawks with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and shot 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Al Horford chipped in with 17 points, 7 rebounds, shot 50% from the field and played outstanding defense.
That stated, Atlanta shot just 37.2% from the field, but their defense (12 steals) was still good enough for them to prevail in a closely contested game.
The Orlando Magic, who was without star center, Nikola Vucevic, got great back up play by Kyle O'Quinn. O'Quinn put up a double-double and shot 50% from the field. Vucevic is set to play in tonight's game, but if there are any issues, O'Quinn is more than an ample backup. Orlando had a chance to pull off the upset as Evan Fournier came up strong with an 18 point, 6 rebound performance, but in the end, it was the Magic bench that did them in as the bench only produced 7 points in total while all of the Magic starters had +/- ratios on the plus side.
Nikola Vucevic is quickly turning into one of the better centers in the NBA. For the season, he's averaging 18.6 points and 11.7 rebounds per game on 50% shooting from the field and nearly 80 % from the free throw line.
A player like this is difficult to come by. Vucevic has missed the Magic's last 6 games and although it's not a guarantee, he's expected to give it a go tonight. If Vucevic is unable to give it 30 to 35 minutes, Kyle O'Quinn, will take his place and this is a player that's managed to average 10 points and 5 rebounds in just 19.3 minutes per game.
Expect Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris to be key factors in this game. For the season, Oladipo is averaging 15.3 and 4 rebounds per game while battling injuries. Tobias Harris (18.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg.) could be the x-factor as this is a player that has the potential to be a game changer with a monster performance.
Orlando's one Achilles heel is their ability to work as a team. They rank 30th in assists and this is a major reason why their only a 9-16 ball club.
The Magic will need to work as a better cohesive unit or they'll lose two straight to a Hawks team that is on fire.
The Hawks on the other hand, have been working well as a team as they ranked 4th in the NBA in assists (25.4 assists) and are stingy on the defensive end, allowing a mere 97.3 points per game. This will be a huge test for the Orlando offense as they face the veteran leadership of Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
Millsap is averaging 20 points per game in his last 2 games and leads the Hawks in scoring. He gives Atlanta a massive inside presence, which is something that is much needed as they're one of the weaker rebounding clubs in the NBA.
Horford is another inside presence to give Vucevic trouble. Atlanta won't see 35 points out of Horford, but they'll receive a definite blue collar type of effort with a player that can hit the crucial shot and is the definition of a team player. Expect Horford to provide his usual 14 point and 7 rebound effort.
Kyle Korver is having an outstanding season and has shot the lights out at an amazing 55.9% from 3-point range. He had a poor game last night and expect a bounce back performance from Korver.
Check Out Our NBA Picks of the Day for Saturday 12/13
Orlando kept last night's game close without Vucevic, but the Hawks are filled with momentum and the spread is low at 3.5. Look for Atlanta to win their 10th consecutive game with their superior teamwork .
NBA Pick - Atlanta -3.5 at 5Dimes