Free NBA Picks: Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic and Utah vs. LA Lakers
by Matt Severance - 5/4/2010
The Orlando Magic finally return to the court following eight days off as their Eastern Conference semifinal series begins against Atlanta – the lone semi that had yet to begin.
Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic, 8 p.m.
The line: Magic -9 (191.5)
How they enter: Atlanta doesn’t have much time to enjoy beating the Bucks in the first round as the Hawks finished off Milwaukee on Sunday. Orlando swept Charlotte out of the playoffs back on April 26.
Scouting report: You may want to give the points here because, as noted in a series preview posted on Doc’s yesterday (I will keep this preview short as you can check that out), 16 of the Hawks’ past 18 playoff games have been decided by double digits. Orlando crushed Atlanta three times this season but lost the most recent meeting on a Josh Smith dunk at the buzzer. Hawks coach Mike Woodson called that 86-84 victory "huge" for his team's confidence because Orlando has dominated this series of late. Shame on the Magic fans, by the way: As of this writing, Game 1 wasn’t even a sellout. There are two Magic injury/illness concerns despite all that time off. Small forward Mickael Pietrus sprained his left ankle during Sunday’s practice but says he will go tonight. Whenever NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford comes in the game, look for Pietrus to follow and then guard him. Magic point guard Jameer Nelson missed practice Sunday with food poisoning but also says he will play tonight. Magic star center Dwight Howard averaged 21 points against the Hawks during the season and didn't foul out of a game – that’s relevant because he was in foul trouble in every game against the Bobcats. Joe Johnson led the Hawks in scoring during the season at 21.3 points per game, but the Magic held him to 16.3 ppg and 38 percent shooting.
Key trends: The Hawks have failed to cover in their past six playoffs games as an underdog.
The ‘over’ is 7-1 in Atlanta’s past eight games as a dog. But the ‘under’ is 5-0 ATS in the past five in this series.
The Hawks are 1-6 ATS in the past seven meetings.
The pick: Take the rested Magic against the probably weary Hawks. And go with the ‘under’.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers, 10:30 p.m.
The line: Lakers -5.5 (199)
How they got here: Los Angeles took Game 1 on Sunday, 104-99. Kobe Bryant scored 11 of his 31 points in the final four minutes as L.A. rallied after blowing a lead. Utah had just one field goal in the final 4:10.
Scouting report: The Jazz just don’t match up well with L.A., it’s as simple as that. The Lakers are 19-6 in their last 25 games against Utah, including the postseason, and haven't lost at home to the Jazz since Jan. 1, 2006 -- 15 consecutive victories. The two big injury concerns in this one are Lakers big man Andrew Bynum and Jazz swingman Andrei Kirilenko. Bynum admitted the torn cartilage in his knee is bothering him but that he will continue to play through it. He had eight points and 10 boards in Game 1. Meanwhile, the Jazz are hoping to get swingman Andrei Kirilenko back tonight. The Russian is Utah’s best defender and calls it “50-50” that he will play as he tries to get back from a strained right calf that has kept him out of the playoffs so far. He would no doubt be a big help on Kobe as well as inside, where the Jazz were dominated in Game 1. During the season, the Jazz defended 5.1 points better with Kirilenko on the floor than when he was off the court. Bryant was 12-for-19 shooting in Game 1, the first time since March 31 he made more than half his shots. Kobe says he feels much better health-wise than he did against the Thunder. The one positive for Utah in Game 1 was its bench outscored L.A.'s second unit 25-22.
Key trends: The ‘under’ is 7-1 in the past eight meetings.
The Lakers are 1-6 ATS in their past seven games after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game.
Utah is 2-6 ATS in its past eight as an underdog.
The pick: I actually think Kirilenko can make a big difference, but it sounds like he’s more likely for Game 3 than tonight. If he plays, take Utah and the points but go with L.A. if he’s not going to suit up. And go with the ‘under’.
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