ATLANTA HAWKS (34-26)
at BOSTON CELTICS (33-27)
Tip-off: Friday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Boston -4, Total: 188.5
The Celtics will be going for their fifth straight victory when they defend their home court against the Hawks on Friday.
Boston is entering Friday’s game having won their past four games, with three of those coming on the road in tough venues (Utah, Philadelphia and Indiana). The Hawks, on the other hand, were on a three-game losing streak before beating up on a struggling Sixers squad. So far this season, the Hawks and Celtics have met twice, both in Atlanta. The first meeting on Jan. 5 ended with Boston on top 89-81, but the Hawks won the most recent meeting on Jan. 25 by a more high-scoring, 123-111 affair that took overtime to decide. The series now shifts to Boston where the Celtics are 5-0 SU over Atlanta in the past three seasons and 14-2 SU in the past six calendar years. But the Hawks are 13-4 ATS (76%) on the road after going Over the total this season.
Can the Warriors finally beat the Rockets this season? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. All four experts have been on fire in NBA Best Bets. StatFox Gary is 90% ATS (9-1) in March and 81% ATS (17-4) since Feb. 20, StatFox Brian 82% ATS in March (9-2), including a perfect 6-0 ATS in the past four days, StatFox Scott is 65% ATS (32-17) since Feb. 3 and StatFox Dave is 57% ATS (4-3) in the past four days. Since February began, the experts are a collective 59.0% ATS (118-82), including 63% ATS (25-15) in March. Scott is now 57% ATS (102-78-1) for the season, while Gary is 54.1% ATS (80-68-4) and Brian is 52.1% ATS (99-91-3). For NBA Totals, Scott is catching fire with a 10-4-1 (71%) mark since Feb. 22 to raise his season record to 57.0% (86-65-1) in Totals.
The Hawks had lost three straight games before getting to play against the Sixers at home. In that game, PG Jeff Teague completely got the best of Jrue Holiday and played one of the best games he ever has in his career. Teague finished the game with 27 points (10-of-15 FG) and 11 assists. He also played well in the loss to Denver in the previous game with 15 points and eight assists. C Al Horford played like his usual All-Star self, putting up 21 points while also getting 12 rebounds and six assists. Over the past five games, Horford has been one of the more dominant bigs in the NBA, averaging 23.4 PPG and 10.4 RPG to go along with 4.0 APG and 2.0 BPG in that stretch. He has averaged a double-double against Boston this season (15.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG), but has shot just 39% FG in the two meetings. SF Josh Smith (17.1 PPG) also has a double-double against Boston this season with 14.5 PPG and 12.0 RPG, but he has shot even worse than Horford with a 29% FG clip in the two meetings, well below his 46% FG for the season. Another reason the Hawks were able to get a win over Philadelphia was good bench play, most notably SG Anthony Tolliver finishing the game with 21 points and eight rebounds. If the Hawks can get production like that from their bench players it will be very tough to beat them.
Boston has been playing very good basketball as of late, going 13-4 (SU and ATS) since a Jan. 27 win over the Heat, which is the first game the Celtics played after star PG Rajon Rondo suffered a season-ending ACL injury. And their most recent win was an impressive one. The Celtics went into Indiana on Wednesday and defeated the Pacers by a final score of 83-81. PF Kevin Garnett performed very well against Indiana’s tough frontline, finishing the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds. SF Paul Pierce shot poorly (4-of-15 FG), but he did finish with 13 points, 8 rebounds and four assists. In the last meeting with Atlanta, Pierce had trouble finding his shot (4-for-13 FG), but still has 19.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG and 4.5 APG against the Hawks this season. One of the major reasons the Celtics were able to upset the 9-point favorite Pacers was the play of PG Avery Bradley. He scored 13 points with four assists, but it was his perimeter defense that stole the show. The second year player out of Texas made it nearly impossible for the Pacers backcourt to score and that ended up being the difference in the game.