We are coming down the stretch of the NBA regular season, and most teams have starkly different goals at this point. The Houston Rockets have their eye on an elusive NBA title, and they are still battling a number of teams for playoff seeding with the postseason just a few weeks away. The Atlanta Hawks, meanwhile, are jockeying for lottery position with the hopes of landing the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft.
Atlanta has been using this season in order to analyze its promising young crop of talent, while Houston has been loading up to make another run at the 2-time reigning champion Golden State Warriors. Will the Rockets win a title for the first time since the mid-1990s? And will the Hawks be afforded the chance to pair star rookie Trae Young with Duke phenom Zion Williamson? We’ll know the answer to both questions in a couple of months.
The following odds are courtesy of our live odds feed:
2019 ATS Home
2019 ATS Away
2019 O/U Home
2019 O/U Away
The Rockets got off to such a disastrous start to the season that many wondered whether they had missed their chance to dethrone Golden State last summer. However, things have gelled as the season has progressed, and I now believe the Rockets are the biggest threat in the Western Conference to the Warriors’ supremacy.
Just about everything the Rockets do begins and ends with James Harden. The league’s defending Most Valuable Player has been putting up even bigger numbers this season, and at this point he’s right there with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in this season’s MVP hunt.
Through 66 games, Harden is averaging an astounding .35.9 points per game to go along with 7.6 assists and 6.4 rebounds. To compare, last season Harden averaged 30.4 points, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds. He has been the single most unstoppable offensive force in the game this season, and he has kept the Rockets afloat amid a number of injuries to key players, including Chris Paul and Clint Capela.
The Rockets picked up a 119-111 win over the Hawks in Houston in the first meeting between the teams late last month. Harden shot just 7-21 from the field that night, but he did convert 14 of his 16 attempts from the line. Interestingly enough, that game ended Harden’s string of consecutive 30-point games at 32. This despite the fact that the Hawks have been one of the worst defensive teams in basketball all year long.
Atlanta is a team in transition, so that’s why they haven’t gotten a ton of national attention this season. The Hawks were widely expected to be the worst team in the league this year, but that hasn’t proven to be the case. Lloyd Pierce has looked like the right man for the job in his first year as head coach, and the early returns on the Trae Young-for-Luka Doncic trade has it looking like a win-win for both sides.
Nobody would tell you that Young is or will be a better NBA player than Doncic, but he does look like a star in his own right. Plus, the Hawks nabbed the Mavericks’ 2019 first-round draft pick in the deal, which will come in handy once the lottery rolls around. The Hawks could potentially have two picks in the top-10 of this year’s draft.
Young started the season shakily, and his shooting numbers still aren’t where they likely should be. The former Oklahoma marksman is averaging 18.4 points per game on the season. His 3-point percentage (33.5 percent) isn’t as high as you may think, but it has risen considerably as the season has progressed.
John Collins, DeAndre’ Bembry, Taurean Prince, and Kevin Huerter also look like solid young players that the Hawks can use as building blocks moving forward. Atlanta has played at the league’s fastest pace, which helps explain why their over/under record (40-31-0) is one of the best in the league in terms of hitting the over. The Hawks have been the second-best “over” bet in the league this season, right behind the Washington Wizards.
Betting on the NBA at this point in the season can be daunting considering how many teams are resting players and giving young guys more playing time. We know the goals with these two teams, though. The Rockets have to try and win every game to better position themselves for the playoffs, while it’s in the Hawks’ best long-term interests to lose and improve their draft odds.
Of course, the Hawks’ players don’t care about draft odds. They’re going to go out there and play regardless. I just think this game has blowout written all over it. Five of Houston’s last six wins with both Harden and Paul in the lineup have come by double-digit margins, which bodes well for their chances tonight in Atlanta.
The Hawks are a tricky team to peg from a betting perspective, but I don’t see the Rockets screwing around in this spot tonight. I think the smart bet is to take Houston to cover the 8-point spread here on the road.
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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