The Houston Rockets, who are coming off of a huge overtime win against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be without superstar James Harden tonight as they face the Atlanta Hawks. Harden has been suspended for kicking LBJ in the groin. How will this affect the Rockets in their encounter with the Atlanta Hawks? Stand by as we provide you with our betting pick..
Tip-off is set for 7:30 pm ET tonight at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. This game can be seen on NBA TV. NBA betting odds are late to come out, but BetOnline Sportsbook lists the Hawks as a 6.5 point betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 200.5.
Harden Out, Smith In
Houston will most likely move Josh Smith into the starting lineup and Corey Brewer will see more minutes. Atlanta is red hot, winning 4 consecutive games and leading the Eastern Conference by and amazing 9.5 games over the Toronto Raptors. Houston will have their work cut out for them, but this suspension shouldn't hurt as it gives Harden, who is an MVP candidate, some extra time to rest. The question is ? Will the Rockets fall apart without James Harden in the lineup against the most improved team in the NBA in the Atlanta Hawks?"
We could see a defensive battle as the Hawks are allowing just 96.4 points per game. This is a major reason for their success. Although most of their starters made it to the All-Star Games as reserves, there's no definitive superstar on their team. Guys like Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague are very good players, but far from elite.
Where the Rockets are concerned, Josh Smith moves into the starting lineup after finally becoming a major part of the Rockets offensive scheme, but the Rockets will look to focus on defense as they start two of the best defensive players in the NBA in Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza. Although both of these players are capable of putting up double-digit scoring and will have more opportunity to do so with Harden out of the lineup, defense is their specialty and that's the only way that the Rockets can make this game competitive.
Both Ariza and Beverley are solid rebounders while Ariza is averaging 2 steals per game. Look for the Rockets to go to the player with the hot hand and that's anyone's guess. Corey Brewer has averaged 14.2 points per game in his last 5 games and should be more of a factor, but he's been quiet the last 2 games, averaging 7 points per game. I expect his production to increase the most on the Rockets squad in this game.
The Atlanta Hawks are led by Paul Millsap. Millsap is often overlooked as he quietly produces on a game in, game out basis. He's coming off of back to back 20 plus point performances in wins over Miami and Orlando and in his last 5 games, is averaging 18.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per games. Expect Millsap to play well here.
We must also remember that Josh Smith is coming back to play his old team, but I don't expect that to be a huge factor as he played well as a member of the Hawks and it was head coach Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons that waived him with such a sizeable contract.
One other player to mention is Kyle Korver. While Korver might not be huge producer every single game, he has a flair for the dramatics and if this game is close, his 3-point shooting ability could put Atlanta over the top. Korver is shooting an amazing 50% from beyond the arc. That's' an amazing statistic because most of the NBA can't shoot 50% from 2-point range.
Harden's loss will be felt. We have to remember that Dwight Howard is also still out and these kind of players can't be replaced. Especially against a team as good and improved as Atlanta. Take Atlanta and lay the points with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Atlanta -9 at BetOnline