Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Boston Celtics (25-8 SU, 15-18 ATS) vs. Atlanta Hawks (22-12 SU, 23-11 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Friday, January 8, 2009, Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Celtics +3/Hawks -3
Over/Under: 196

Eastern Conference supremacy is on the line when the Atlanta Hawks host the Boston Celtics in a Friday night ESPN showcase.

The Hawks are the best ATS team in the NBA this season with a 23-11 ATS record. They are also 12-5 ATS at home and 18-10 ATS as a favorite. The Celtics are 15-18 ATS overall, 9-9 ATS on the road, and 2-1 ATS as an underdog.

The Celtics have had a very streaky season. After an 11-game winning streak ended on December 18 with a one-point loss to the 76ers, the Celtics won three more games in a row. But then they lost three in a row on a West Coast road trip to the Clippers, Warriors and Suns in a four-day span the last week of December. But the rebounded by winning their last two games to the Raptors and Heat, scoring over 100 points in both games. The Celtics have been successful with their defense. They have only scored 100 points three games in a row twice this season and have not scored 100 points four games in a row yet.

In a 112-106 overtime win over the Heat on Wednesday (it was tied at 101 after regulation), all five Celtics starters scored in double figures and three of them had at least 20 points. Rajon Rondo, who made a game-tying alley-oop layup at the buzzer of regulation, had 25 points and eight assists. Ray Allen had 20 points, and Kendrick Perkins had 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics committed 24 turnovers and only forced 11 of them, but they shot 54 percent from the field and got to the free throw line 41 times.

The Hawks recently ended a four-game losing streak with a 119-89 home win over the hapless Nets on Wednesday. The Hawks shot 57.3 percent from the field and made 13-of-22 3-point attempts. They also shot 20-of-21 from the free throw line and out-rebounded the Nets by 10. Jamal Crawford, who had a game-high 29 points off the bench, and Joe Johnson, who had 20 points, each made four 3-pointers.

The Hawks defeated the Celtics in Boston on November 13, 97-86. The Hawks were able to earn the victory with terrific rebounding and 3-point defense. The Hawks came away with a 47-29 rebounding edge, and the Celtics were just 1-of-15 from 3-point range. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce each had 24 points to lead their respective teams.

Kevin Garnett has been out since December 30 with a hyper-extended right knee and will not play on Friday against the Hawks.

The Celtics are 1-4 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win and 1-4 ATS in their last five games on one day of rest. The Hawks are 4-1 ATS in their last five games on one day of rest. They are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home games and 23-9-1 ATS in their last 33 games as a home favorite. The Hawks are 0-4 ATS in their last four games following an ATS win. The Celtics are 1-4 ATS in their last five games in Atlanta. The home team is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 meetings between these two teams. The over is 4-1 in the last five meetings in Atlanta between these teams and 7-3 in the last 10 meetings overall.

Ryno’s Pick: There aren’t many teams that can hang with the Celtics almost every single time they play them, but the Hawks are a team that can. They just present the Celtics with a tough matchup as a team that can run up and down the court and tire the old Celtics bodies out. It all started a couple years ago when the Hawks, as the No. 8 seed, brought the No. 1 seed Celtics to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. And it’s continued this year as the Hawks won in Boston last time they played each other. The Hawks have been the best team to bet on in the NBA this season, leading the league ATS with a 23-11 record. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five home games against the Celtics, and the home team is 9-3 ATS in the last 12 in this series, so the Hawks are a very good bet. Take the Hawks -3.