The Atlanta Hawks were a trendy pick to make the playoffs out of the Eastern Conference this season, but Lloyd Pierce’s crew has stumbled out of the gates. The Hawks are just 6-19 through the first 25 games of the new season. While that doesn’t necessarily mean the playoffs are out of reach, they’ll face quite the uphill climb just to get back into the conversation.
Atlanta is a young team, so the fact that they have underwhelmed to this point isn’t a major surprise. It also doesn’t help that John Collins, the second-best player on the team, is still serving a 25-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. His absence has certainly made the lineup less formidable.
The Pacers, meanwhile, look primed to contend for one of the top seeds in the conference. Indiana is still playing without franchise centerpiece Victor Oladipo, but his teammates have stepped up in the meantime. There is still no definitive timetable for Oladipo’s return, but the early-season results are promising regardless.
Indiana is off to a solid 16-9 start overall, and they picked up an impressive 122-117 win over the Boston Celtics last time out. The Pacers have won 4 of their last 6 and enter play Friday in the No. 6 spot in the conference.
MyBookie has the Pacers as 5.5-point favorites Friday night in Atlanta after the line opened at Indiana -6. The game also has an over/under of 224 points.
2019 Straight Up
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
Pacers’ Unheralded Stars
Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are hardly household names, but both players are putting together All-Star caliber seasons thus far. Sabonis has really come into his own since coming with Oladipo from Oklahoma City in the trade that sent Paul George to the Thunder a couple of years ago. Brogdon was the Pacers’ splashy offseason signing, and he has looked like a perfect fit in Indiana.
There were rumors before the season that Indy could trade Sabonis, but they instead decided to sign him to a lucrative new contract extension. That’s looking like a wise decision right about now. Sabonis has improved his production in every season thus far, and so far this year he’s averaging 18.2 points, 13.5 rebounds and just under 4 assists per game. Those are career-highs in every category.
He struggled quite a bit playing power forward as a rookie with the Thunder, but he has shown no signs of that while sharing the frontcourt with Myles Turner this season. In fact, Turner seems to be the one having issues. Turner is averaging just 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. both of which are near the lowest marks of his career.
Brogdon was overshadowed in Milwaukee by Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he has really come into his own since moving to Indiana. The former Rookie of the Year is up to 19.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game while connecting on nearly 36 percent of his looks from 3-point range. Brogdon has also supplied his usual top-notch defense on the other end of the floor. He should be a nice fit next to Oladipo whenever the latter returns from his quad injury.
The Indiana Pacers are in a perfectly fine spot. They’re clearly not quite as good as a team like Milwaukee, but they should be able to make a decent run into the postseason if Oladipo can come back and return to his old form. They may still be a piece or two away from legitimate title contention, but this is a team trending in the right direction.
Trae Young’s One-Man Show
Collins’ suspension put even more responsibility on the shoulders of Trae Young. Young would have won Rookie of the Year last season were it not for the exploits of Luka Doncic, and he has been even more impressive so far in Year 2. The Oklahoma product ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 27.9 points per game, and he’s also chipping in 8.6 assists while shooting better than 37 percent from long range on high volume.
Young is one of the most unique offensive weapons in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Hawks are eventually able to build a title contender around him. This is one of the youngest teams in basketball, so it should be fun to see them all develop at the same time. I expect more wins to come once Collins returns, but in the meantime Pierce has gotten the chance to see what some of his other players can do.
Atlanta’s rookie tandem of De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish hasn’t been consistent, but both have shown flashes. Hunter is averaging a modest 12.5 points and 4 rebounds per game, but he’s shooting a passable 36.7 percent from 3-point range on 5 attempts per night. He clearly has the size and ability to defend at a high level, so if the offense comes around he’s going to be a very good rotation player.
Reddish is more raw, but the tools are there. He’s shooting just 33 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point range, but he has the look of a guy that can one day develop into a reliable offensive piece. Young’s presence means he’ll never have to take on too much responsibility, which should ultimately prove to be a good thing for his growth in the long run.
As you may expect, the Hawks have been dismal defensively. As great as Young is offensively, he’s an absolute sieve on the other end of the floor. The Hawks are allowing 112.2 points per 100 possessions, which ties them with the lowly Cavaliers for the second-worst defensive rating in all of basketball. Indiana, meanwhile, ranks a respectable seventh in the same category.
The Hawks just can’t get enough stops late in games to be a reliable betting option. Atlanta has proven that they can hang with good teams on occasion, but a youthful team like this is always prone to getting blown out. Earlier this week, they managed to accomplish both in the same game. The Hawks impressively took a strong Miami team to overtime, but they somehow managed to get outscored 18-4 in the overtime game to lose the game by 16 points. You won’t often see an overtime game decided by double digits.
I like the Pacers here, even on the road. The Hawks have a point differential of minus-9.9, which is among the worst marks in the league. The Pacers should have zero issues putting points on the board in this one, and I expect them to do a decent job in stifling Young at the point of attack. Bet on the Pacers to cover tonight.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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