Free NBA Picks: Hawks at Celtics Game 3 Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/3/2012
The Hawks have to be the most maddening team in the NBA. Just when you think they’ve turned a corner from their inconsistent, knucklehead selves, they remind you exactly who they are. Atlanta looked pretty darn good in winning Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Boston, 83-74, on Sunday.
And at the end of that game, the Hawks got a major break when Boston all-star point guard Rajon Rondo bumped a ref, which got him suspended for Tuesday’s Game 2. So with Rondo out and Ray Allen still out with an ankle injury, it sure looked good for Atlanta to take a 2-0 lead to Boston. But to summarize typical Atlanta, their best player, Josh Smith, tried this crazy reverse dunk early on a breakaway and pretty much missed the entire rim. Yeah, it didn’t affect the outcome, but why are you showboating in a playoff game you are supposed to win? Stars step up big when it’s most needed and Paul Pierce did in Game 2 with 36 points and 14 rebounds as Boston won, 87-80.
But Atlanta had this game! They led by five entering the fourth quarter, but then they proceeded to shoot 4-of-19 from the field, and that fourth field goal came with 24.3 seconds left when the game was all but over. Atlanta had two more turnovers than buckets in the quarter. To add insult to injury, Smith went out with a little more than four minutes left with a knee injury and he’s been easily the team’s best player in this series.
Hawks at Celtics Betting Story Lines
Let’s start with Smith. He is considered doubtful for Game 3 with either patella tendinitis or a strained left tendon in his knee, depending on whom you believe (Atlanta Journal-Constitution says one, team says another). An MRI revealed no structural damage so he probably won’t miss more than one game. Smith said Thursday that he was feeling better but that it was still quite sore. No official word will likely come until after Friday morning’s shootaround.
Smith, who averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in the regular season, has 38 points and 30 rebounds in the first two games of the series. If he sits, Coach Larry Drew’s options are to use rookie power Ivan Johnson, who is averaging 5.0 points and 5.0 minutes in 18 minutes per game in this series, or go small and insert someone like Marvin Williams or even Tracy McGrady at times.
The last thing the Hawks can afford is to lose a big man. Of course, Al Horford has been out since early in the season and won’t play in this series. And neither will backup center Zaza Pachulia, apparently. It has come out he has a bone chip in his foot. Pachulia hasn’t played since April 13. So that means Jason Collins will start in the middle again. He barely played this season and is averaging 4.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 27.0 minutes in this series. Collins is clearly overmatched against Kevin Garnett as Collins nearly fouled out of Game 1 and did Game 2.
As for Boston, it gets back Rondo for Game 2; he had 20 points and 11 assists in 43 minutes in Game 1 before getting the heave-ho. The Celtics’ injury concern is with Ray Allen, who has missed the past 11 games with an ankle injury. Allen did go through a full practice Thursday and likely will be a game-time decision again. It wouldn’t surprise me if Boston waits one more game to insert Allen, especially as the C’s know they should win easily if Smith doesn’t play. Even if Allen does go, look for Avery Bradley to continue to start and take the majority of minutes.
Atlanta played once at Boston during the regular season, losing 88-86 in overtime on April 11 as a 2.5-point underdog. Rondo led the Celtics with a triple-double: 10 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists. Garnett had 22 points and 12 boards. Allen didn’t play in that game. Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 21 points and Smith had 20 with 11 rebounds. Pachulia did play that game and had 13 points and seven boards in 39 minutes. In fact, no other “center” got minutes for Atlanta (Collins didn’t play at all), which was outrebounded 56-39.
Hawks at Celtics Betting Odds and Key Trends
Boston opened as an eight-point favorite with the total at 173.5 on NBA odds. About 62 percent of the action as of this writing is on the Hawks. The line opened at 7.5 at most books. Atlanta was 19-12-2 ATS on the road this season and 14-19 on the ‘over/under’ away. Boston was 18-14-1 ATS at home and 13-19-1 O/U.
The Hawks are 5-0 ATS in their past five games after a loss. They also have covered in their past five road games. Boston has covered in 10 of its past 13 home games. But the C’s have covered in just three of their past 17 playoff games as a favorite of at least five points. The over if 5-0 in Atlanta’s past five games after a loss. The under is 6-1 in Boston’s past seven games as a favorite. The underdog has covered in five of the past six meetings in this series.
Free NBA Picks: Hawks at Celtics Betting Predictions
I want to say the other Hawks players will step up if Smith sits. But this is Atlanta we are talking about, so I really have no idea how they will react. If you look at the starting five with Smith out, Boston has a big advantage everywhere but at shooting guard. And the Hawks can’t score even with Smith: Atlanta is shooting 37.7 percent (in the playoffs, only Indiana is shooting worse) and is averaging 81.5 points a game. Still, ight points is a lot. If Smith plays, take Atlanta. If he doesn’t, go Boston. But take the under regardless.
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