Free NBA Picks: Atlanta Hawks at New Jersey Nets

Atlanta Hawks at New Jersey Nets
Tuesday, 11/23/10, 7:05 EST
Opening Betting line: Atlanta Hawks -3.5
Current Betting line:  Atlanta Hawks -3.5
Opening Total:  190
Current Total: 190

Both teams come into tonight’s game cold.  Atlanta has lost its last two games, and New Jersey has lost its last three.  Atlanta, however, has been good on the road so far this year, going 5-1, and New Jersey isn’t known for being that tough at home either and they have a losing record of 2-4 at home.  The game is important for the Hawks because though they are only 8-6 so far, the Eastern Conference standings are tight, and they are only 2 games out of first, as the 10-4 Celtics lead the East.

In terms of point differentials, Atlanta is outscoring its opponents 99.4 to 98.5, while New Jersey is being outscored 92.7 to 96.0.  With the total set at 190, expect it to be very close, as both teams’ average combines to 192.1.  The total has gone OVER in 7 of Atlanta’s last 10 games against New Jersey.  However, it has gone UNDER in 4 of Atlanta’s last 6 in New Jersey.

Atlanta is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games against the Nets on the road.  Over the last 10 games, Atlanta has averaged 109.6 vs New Jersey’s 102.5.  Their last matchup was March 16, 2010 in New Jersey.  Atlanta won by 24.

Some of the key matchups tonight to keep an eye on:

Brook Lopez vs. Al Horford – Both are up and coming young centers.  Lopez is a bit more offensively talented than Horford.  Horford, though, is showing strides every season in his offensive game and is averaging 16.6 ppg this year, 2.4 more than last year. To go with his 16.6 ppg, he is managing 9.3 rpg and an impressive for a big man 3.2 apg.  Brook Lopez is averaging a tad more than Horford in points (17.2) but is struggling to rebound this year, getting only 6.3 boards a game, compared to his career average of 8.2  He must box out and go after the ball more aggressively if the Nets are going to keep up with the Hawks on the boards.

Josh Smith vs Troy Murphy & Derrick Favors – Murphy and Favors will have their hands full with Josh Smith, an excellent rebounder and shot blocker, who still scores 15.3 ppg.  Smith is blocking 2.8 shots a game this year, and also stealing the ball 1.4 times a game.  His defense will give the Nets headaches, and expect him to keep Murphy and Favors from getting very involved offensively.  If Smith cheats off them to block weak side shots, however, they could capitalize on being open.  Troy Murphy is having the worst season of his NBA career, getting less minutes and less shots than ever before and averaging a pathetic 4.4 ppg on 30% FG.  Expect Favors to see a lot of minutes against the athetic Smith.

Ultimately this game will be decided on the play of the interior players.  Both New Jersey and Atlanta have good front courts and the matchups between the 4 and 5 spots will be interesting to keep an eye on.  Moreover, I expect the rebound differential to play a close role in determining the winner of this game, all other things being equal.  Atlanta has had success against New Jersey, but the Nets are desperate for a win, as another loss would continue to carry them out of the playoff picture.

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