Both New York teams have been glad to see the calendar turn to 2014 as the Nets and Knicks have been playing much better in the New Year. However, both have tough road tests on Thursday as Brooklyn faces Atlanta in London, while the Knicks visit Indiana, the team with the best home record in the NBA.
Nets vs. Hawks
Neither Brooklyn nor Atlanta seems overly excited about playing this game in London -- 3 p.m. Eastern tip -- and it's not exactly generating a huge buzz in the United Kingdom. Brooklyn is a 1.5-point favorite on NBA odds with a total of 192.5. NBA basketball just hasn't taken hold in England like it has in, say, China. Currently two NBA players, Cleveland's Luol Deng and Portland's Joel Freeman, are on England's national team. That team has qualified for the Olympics just twice and it was when London hosted the Games.
The Nets (17-20, 19-16-2 O/U at sportsbooks) had won five straight to start 2014, including very impressive wins at Oklahoma City and at home against Golden State and Miami. But the Nets were flat on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back at surging Toronto, getting blown out 96-80. You could see that coming as Brooklyn didn't arrive in Toronto until very early in the morning on Saturday after the double-OT win over Miami. Also, Kevin Garnett took the night off, simply for rest, and Mason Plumlee got his first career and had just six points in 28 minutes before fouling out.
Garnett will be back Thursday, but point guard Deron Williams didn't make the trip. He hasn't played since Jan. 4 because of a troublesome ankle injury. Sean Livingston had played well in his place before going 3-for-11 with eight points against Toronto.
Atlanta (21-17 ATS, 22-16 O/U at sportsbooks) continues to tread water despite losing All-Star big man Al Horford for the season in late December to a torn pectoral muscle. The team is 5-6 since Horford was lost. The Hawks have been off since losing 108-101 at Memphis on Sunday. New starting center Pero Antic (who?) missed that game due to back spasms. He is in London but iffy. The Hawks will be without forward DeMarre Carroll after his daughter was born. He has come on of late, averaging 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in the past five games with extra minutes.
The Hawks played in Brooklyn on Jan. 6 and lost 91-86 as a 1.5-point underdog on NBA odds. Former Hawk Joe Johnson was the high scorer in that one with 23 points. Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 16 points, but the Hawks were minus-12 with him on the floor. Atlanta shot only 38.9 percent and turned it over 18 times.
Both the Nets (4-1 ATS) and Hawks (5-1 ATS) have been good in their recent Thursday games. Atlanta has failed to cover its past four on at least three days of rest.
Free NBA Pick: Brooklyn -1.5 and over.
Knicks vs. Pacers
Like the Nets, the Knicks started 2014 with five straight wins, including impressive victories over Dallas and Miami, before losing their last game. That was a 108-98 defeat at struggling Charlotte on Tuesday in the second of a back-to-back for New York. A two-game skid seems likely as the Knicks are 10-point underdogs on NBA odds with a total of 184 at Indiana in the TNT opener Thursday.
The Knicks (16-22 ATS, 18-20 O/U at sportsbooks) welcomed back center and top defensive player Tyson Chandler on Tuesday after he had missed the previous four games with bronchitis. Chandler apparently wasn't 100 percent as he played just 16 minutes and wasn't much of a factor with five points and four rebounds. With Chandler limited, Charlotte big man Al Jefferson dominated to the tune of 35 points (on 14-for-19 shooting) and eight rebounds.
New York sixth man J.R. Smith found himself tethered to the bench again. Coach Mike Woodson sat Smith last Thursday following his shoelace escapades. Smith played in the next two games, but apparently he was upset in playing only 45 seconds of overtime in Monday's win against Phoenix and said something about it to Woodson, so Smith took another seat. Because of odd rules in the CBA, the Knicks couldn't trade Smith this season until Jan. 15. Now that the date has passed, the Knicks will shop him heavily. Who wants a guy shooting 35.7 percent from the field and is a major distraction?
Indiana (25-12 ATS, 13-24 O/U at sportsbooks) improved to 19-1 at home on Tuesday by blowing out an improving Kings team 116-92. Sacramento had scored in triple digits in 12 straight and 18 of its past 19 before running into the NBA's best defense. Pacers star Paul George had been just 41 of 118 from the field in his previous seven games before going 10-for-18 for 31 points against Sacramento. It was his highest point total since Dec. 8.
This is the Knicks' only visit of the regular season. They were 6.5-point home dogs on NBA odds Nov. 20 against Indiana and lost 103-96 in overtime. New York's Iman Shumpert was called for a questionable foul on George as he attempted a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left. George made all three free throws to tie it and then had nine of his game-high 35 points in the extra session. New York was without starters Chandler and Raymond Felton in that one, with Amare Stoudemire also sitting out. It was the second of a back-to-back for the Knicks.
The favorite has covered six straight in this series and Indiana has covered its past five at home against teams under .500 on the road. So take the Indiana Pacers -10 and Under over the New York Knicks for your free NBA picks.
Free NBA Pick: Indiana -10 and under