NBA on ESPN Double Header: Atlanta Hawks at Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowtizki is nearing the end of his career but he is by no means ineffective.
Dirk Nowtizki is nearing the end of his career but he is by no means ineffective.

Atlanta Hawks at Dallas Mavericks
Time: 8:30 PM CST (ESPN)
Spread: ATL -1
Total: 203

Betting odds c/o Bovada

This season is not like last, at least thus far for the 13-9 Atlanta Hawks. After posting the best record in the East last season, the Hawks have fallen to mediocre levels. But levels that are still better than its opponent to night, the aged Dallas Mavericks. The Hawks visit Dallas as 1-point favorites in this second of a double header on ESPN tonight.

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The Hawks have won three of its past five games with victories over the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers. Perhaps those are teams Atlanta should have beat, save OKC. But it has not taken care of business against the Toronto Raptors nor San Antonio Spurs—the team that HC Mike Budenholtzer has modeled his club after.

The Hawks did dispose of the Lakers by 13 points, but L.A.’s season has become more of a Kobe Bryant farewell tour than anything to be taken seriously. Kobe hit 4 of 19 in his last visit to Atlanta for his NBA career, but the Hawks starting big men Al Horford and Paul Millsap combined for 31 points on 12 of 23 shooting.

Atlanta dipped less into its bench, which has become typical for the Hawks this season. All five starters saw at least 31 minutes, though Kent Bazemore and Mike Scott did combine for 29 points in the game for the reserve Hawks. Atlanta is glad it was able to re-sign Millsap in particular, as he was a free agent who came back to Atlanta on a max-deal.

Millsap is leading the team in scoring (18.2 points) and rebounding (9.5 boards) while posting a team-high PER of 23.4 If any Hawks make the All-Star team, it will be Millsap this season.

Al Horford has posted respectable numbers of 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, but his play has fallen off a little this year. Horford is still attempting 13.1 shots per game, but if Atlanta is to improve its prospects that number should hover closer to 15. He is posting the same field goal percentage as Kyle Korver who attempts over half his field goal attempts behind the arc.  He has been battling an ankle issue but is expected to play.

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Korver is hitting 42.9 percent of those triples, which is actually below his career average of 43.2 percent. Last year, the gunner hit an unheard of 49.2 percent from three, and maybe it was too much to expect the one-time All-Star to repeat that performance. But the fact that so many Hawks have dipped slightly from last year has resulted in the team’s overall mediocrity this season.

The 13-9 Mavericks may be turning the corner after winning its last two games against teams positioned to make the playoffs in the East (New York and Washington). Dallas barely held on to win 104-97 over New York, despite losing the final period 25-16. Dirk Nowitzki has fallen off a lot, but he was outplayed by a rookie, Kristaps Porzingis who finished with 28 points, besting Dirk’s 25 point effort. As Nowitzki goes, so go the Mavericks.

Maybe that is common logic, but the 7-foot German is shooting 53.9 percent from the floor in the Mavs’ 12 wins while hitting just 44.5 percent during the losses. He is still seeing over 30 minutes per game and over his past five games he is averaging 20 points and seven rebounds per game, slightly higher than his season averages of 18 and 9.

Dirk attempted just eight field goals in the win over Washington, but he has attempted 15 or more in four of the other past five games. The Mavs are reliant on a player in his twilight years, but Nowitzki is still a damn good basketball player, no matter how it is diced. The Mavs are 1-point underdogs, but if Nowitzki continues his current play the Mavs win. It is that simple.  62 percent of bettors at are picking Dallas to cover the spread.

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