I have to say the Atlanta Hawks have always irritated me – and apparently their fan base as they usually don’t draw well. The Hawks are stuck in NBA limbo as they are almost always competitive-to-pretty-good but never really a true title contender. And that appears to be the case again this season with Atlanta a solid 20-12 and just three games behind Miami in the Southeast Division. But the Hawks are +2000 long shots to win the East and +5000 to win a title on BetOnline.
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As for Minnesota (15-15), it’s truly a shame this team can’t stay healthy. When both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are on the court together, the Timberwolves might be the most entertaining team in the NBA outside of the L.A. Clippers. The problem is that the two have played just three games together this season, and, of course, Rubio missed a big chunk of last season due to a serious knee injury.
Hawks at Timberwolves Betting Story Lines
Let’s get to Love’s injury right away, which probably torpedoes Minnesota’s playoff chances – since reaching the 2004 Western Conference finals behind Kevin Garnett, the team has missed the playoffs every season. Love missed about the first month with a broken right hand and just re-broke it Thursday against the Nuggets. He will miss weeks, and if surgery is needed could be gone for the season. The team is sending Love to a specialist to determine if surgery will be necessary – it wasn’t the first time. Love was averaging a team-best 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds in 18 games but shooting a lousy 35.2 percent from the field. Largely thanks to Love, the team leads the NBA in rebounding.
Dante Cunningham started in place of Love on Saturday against Portland and was solid with 10 points and 12 rebounds in 42 minutes. And look for former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, who so far has been a disappointment, to see a huge uptick in minutes as well. The former Pac-12 Player of the Year at Arizona is averaging 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game. He did have 18 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes Saturday against the Blazers but didn’t step up when Love was out with the hand injury the first time.
As for Rubio, he recently returned from his knee injury but has had his minutes severely limited and isn’t playing in the second of back-to-backs. However, Rubio has missed the past four games with back spasms. He is expected to play tonight. So is center Nikola Pekovic, who has become a darn good center. He is averaging 15.9 points and 8.3 rebounds and had 21 and 15 in the loss to Portland. Pekovic played through a hip injury and missed practice Monday but also is expected to play against Atlanta. Probably no team has been hit harder by injuries. Chase Budinger could miss the rest of the season after November knee surgery, and Brandon Roy is again trying to work his way back from knee issues. Cunningham, Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved are the only Wolves to have played in all 30 games. The Timberwolves enter having lost six of their past nine games.
The Hawks had a rather epic meltdown in Saturday’s 89-81 home loss to Boston. Atlanta was up 19 points in the second quarter but was outscored a whopping 33-9 in the third quarter. Previously, no sub-.500 visiting team had ever scored more than 30 points in a quarter while holding an over-.500 opponent to fewer than 10 points in that same quarter in NBA history (who finds these stats!?). It was only the second time the Celtics in their storied history scored more than 30 while allowing fewer than 10 points in a quarter.
The Atlanta backcourt is a bit thin right now as both point guard Devin Harris (foot) and shooting guard Anthony Morrow (hip) are dealing with injuries. Morrow has missed five games and Harris 10. Both will travel with Atlanta on its road trip, so it’s conceivable both will play tonight but rather unlikely. Harris backs up starter Jeff Teague, so his potential return isn’t a huge deal. Morrow had been starting but isn’t the player that stud Sixth Man Lou Williams is. He had 28 points in that loss to Boston. Former Bulls sharpshooter Kyle Korver has gotten more minutes with Harris and Morrow out but he’s one-dimensional.
The Hawks enter having lost two straight and three of four. They haven’t topped 84 points in the past two games. This is the first of two meetings this year. Last season in the lone meeting, Atlanta won 93-91 at home despite 31 points and 13 boards from Love. Teague led the Hawks with 20 points and 10 assists. Atlanta rallied from an 18-point deficit.
Hawks at Timberwolves NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Minnesota is a 1.5-point favorite with the total at 189.5. The Hawks are 13-18-1 ATS (8-7 on road) and 16-16 “over/under”. The Wolves are 16-14 ATS (7-7 at home) and 14-15-1 O/U.
Atlanta is 6-1 ATS in its past seven against Northeast Division teams. The Hawks are 0-4 ATS in past four playing on two days of rest. Minnesota is 4-1 ATS in its past five against teams with a winning home record. The Wolves are 1-4 ATS in their past five overall. The under is 4-0 in Atlanta’s past four after a loss. The under is 8-1-1 in Minnesota’s past 10 after a loss. Atlanta has covered its past six trips to Minnesota.
Hawks at Timberwolves Picks and Betting Predictions
The magic number for Minnesota is clearly 90 points, as the team is 0-6 when scoring less than that this season. The Wolves haven’t been able to solve Atlanta, losing 11 straight in the series dating to 2006. And without Love, a very limited Rubio and a sore Pekovic, I don’t see it happening here, either. Take the Hawks and the under.
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