ATLANTA HAWKS (33-25)
at DENVER NUGGETS (38-22)
Tip-off: Monday, 9:05 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -10.5, Total: 211.5
The Hawks wrap up their long road trip Monday with a visit to the toughest venue on their journey, the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Atlanta began the road trip with three straight wins at Milwaukee, Detroit and Utah, but has dropped two straight, falling 92-87 at Phoenix and by one point at the L.A. Lakers on Sunday night. Despite the small losing skid, the Hawks are an impressive 9-2 ATS in their past 11 road games. However, playing in the thin air is always a challenge for the visitors, as the Nuggets' 105-103 win over Oklahoma City on Friday gives them 10 straight home wins and improves them to 25-3 SU (19-9 ATS) at Pepsi Center this season. Atlanta has lost five straight trips to Denver, but is 8-4 ATS in the past 12 games in the thin air. And in the teams' first meeting this season, the Hawks won 108-104 on their home floor.
Can the Nuggets cover the hefty spread against a quality opponent? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Scott has gone 30-13 ATS (70%) on NBA Best Bets since Feb. 3, which has improved his season record to an impressive 58% ATS (100-74-1). StatFox Gary is also red-hot, going 4-0 ATS since Thursday and 12-3 ATS (80%) since Feb. 20. Since February began, the experts are a collective 58% ATS (101-74). StatFox Brian is 4-2 ATS in his past four days and 55% ATS (12-10) since the All-Star break. For NBA Totals, Scott is catching fire with an 8-2-1 (80%) mark in the past 10 days to raise his season mark to 57.1% (84-63-1) in Totals.
The Hawks average a pedestrian 95.2 PPG on the road this season, but the offense has been clicking during the long road trip with 100.8 PPG on 47% FG. The defense has also been solid this season, allowing 96.6 PPG (12th in NBA) on 44.7% FG (14th in league), including just 94.0 PPG in the past three games. But they do a poor job of defending the three-pointer, allowing 38.5% threes (2nd-worst in NBA). This really did Atlanta in on Sunday, as the Lakers drained 10-of-21 threes. Atlanta's offense runs through its two big men in C Al Horford (17.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG) and PF Josh Smith (17.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 4.3 APG). The duo combined for 43 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals and three blocks in the loss, but also committed 11 turnovers and failed to make a single free throw (Smith 0-for-6, Horford 0-for-0). But both players tallied double-doubles in the Dec. 5 win over Denver with Horford notching 25 points and 12 rebounds (six offensive), while Smith finished with 16 points and 13 boards (five offensive). PG Devin Harris (9.2 PPG) also played well that day with 12 points (5-of-6 FG), five assists and three steals. But PG Jeff Teague (14.3 PPG, 7.0 APG) was horrible against Denver, making only 4-of-16 shots and finishing with a minus-18 rating. Both of these guards have been asked to score more since SG Louis Williams (14.1 PPG) was lost for the season with a knee injury on Jan. 18. Teague has 16.3 PPG (46% FG) and 8.0 APG in the 19 games since Williams got hurt, while Harris has scored 10.3 PPG in the same span, including 13.7 PPG (53% FG, 58% threes) during a six-game streak of double-figure points.
Denver's offense loves to get up-and-down the court, attempting the second-most shots (85.4 FGA per game) and scoring the league's third-most points (105.5 PPG). This rapid pace also has the Nuggets committing the sixth-most turnovers in the NBA (14.7 TOPG), but they also distruibute 24.3 APG (3rd in league) and are active defensively with 9.1 SPG (2nd in NBA). Denver also knows how to flex its muscles on the glass, ripping down 45.1 RPG this season (2nd in the NBA). Leading scorer SF Danilo Gallinari (16.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) returned to action Friday after missing two games with a thigh injury, but managed only seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in 22 minutes. He also struggled with his shot against the Hawks earlier this season, scoring 16 points on 3-of-10 shooting. PG Ty Lawson (16.4 PPG, 7.1 APG) has been on a roll with 24.4 PPG (51% FG) and 7.9 APG in his past nine games. He hit the game-winning shot in Friday's win versus the Thunder, but finished with just 11 points and seven assists. Lawson scored a season-high 32 points in Atlanta in December on a near-perfect 12-of-16 shooting (5-of-5 threes), while adding seven assists and five steals. SG Andre Iguodala (13.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.0 APG) is finally over his neck injury with 15.0 PPG (53% FG) and 8.8 APG during his team's four-game win streak. But he played a horrible game at Atlanta on Dec. 5, making just 2-of-10 shots and committing seven turnovers. Denver's three highest scorers on Friday all came off the bench, with SG Wilson Chandler (11.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG) pumping in a career-high-tying 35 points on 13-of-19 FG (6-of-7 threes), while SF Corey Brewer (11.4 PPG) and PG Andre Miller (9.1 PPG, 5.8 APG) added 14 points apiece. Brewer had five steals while Miller dished out seven assists. Denver's bench has been outstanding all season (39.9 PPG, 3rd in NBA), including 46.5 PPG during the team's four-game win streak. The reserves outscored Oklahoma City's reserves 71-11 in Friday's win.