Eastern Conference action on Saturday as the playoff eliminated Atlanta Hawks host the playoff bound Philadelphia 76ers at Phillips Arena. Philly has been in very good form of late winning 6 straight and 7 of 10. There is some weakness, however, at least in terms of their ATS performance–during the six game winning streak the Sixers are just 3-3 ATS and just 5-5 ATS in their last 10 games. They’re coming off a win/no cover at home against Boston in their last action on Wednesday night.
Which brings us to the Atlanta Hawks who have to be one of–if not THE–most inexplicable team in the league. They’re definitely not a good team. They’ve got the fifth worst record in the NBA and fourth worst record in the Eastern Conference. They’re 14-22 SU at home, 11-26 SU on the road and are 29 games out of first place. For that matter, they’re 10.5 games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. They’re the prototype of a team that should completely be ‘phoning it in’ down the stretch. Instead, they’ve played their best basketball of the season. Since the All Star Break they rank at or near the top of most offensive categories including points scored and three pointers made. Much of the upswing has been the performance of youngsters Trae Young and John Collins who have been given the green light with nothing else to lose. They’re a duo that the Hawks could build around. Young in particular has the look of a superstar.
Funny things happen when you exert an effort. Like, say, you cover a lot of pointspreads. The Hawks won and covered over Utah last time out winning outright as +7.5 home underdogs. They’ve covered 11 of their last 18 games and since they’re getting a generous amount of points every time out their high octane offense leaves the proverbial ‘back door’ open in just about every game.
The Sixers could be ripe to put it into ‘cruise control’ down the stretch. They’re not really in a position to improve upon their third place seeding in the Eastern Conference. They trail Toronto by 3.5 games and the Raptors are playing jut well enough to keep them in the rear view mirror. They’re also not at much risk of dropping down in the standings. They have a 3.5 game advantage over Indiana who is playing horrible basketball at the moment (losing 4 straight and 7 of 10). Boston is 4 games back but there’s little to suggest that they’re going to go on a run. The Sixers’ scheduling sequence is perfect for doing just enough to win–Philly plays at Atlanta tonight, at Orlando on Monday, home against Brooklyn then at Minnesota, Dallas and Atlanta. Brooklyn is the only playoff team in the bunch.
The public has no interest in the Hawks so their prices stay attractive. Opponents have no particular motivation against the Hawks so they don’t bring their A game. Atlanta scores points in bunches so the back door is always open. Sixers just 5-9 ATS this year as a road favorite. Atlanta beat Philadelphia on the road in early January, winning 123-121 as a +10.5 road dog.