Atlanta Hawks (-6, 210 o/u) at Denver Nuggets
The Atlanta Hawks (50-13, 20-9 away) start a nine-game west coast road trip tonight against the Denver Nuggets (23-41, 14-19 home)..
Given that the squad leads the Eastern Conference by 10.5 games, the Hawks are preaching long-term health and prosperity over winning-at-all-costs at this point in the season.
“We don’t care about a whole bunch of victories right now,” said forward DeMarre Carroll. “We’re worried about being better later.”
That means Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer will be resting key players – such as Carroll – as the season winds down. Carroll got the night off against the Philadelphia 76ers last week, but returned – seemingly rejuvenated – on Monday, scoring 20 points, including four triples, in the Hawks’ 130-105 win over Sacramento.
“My legs felt good,” said Carroll. “We were shooting the ball really well and playing with a lot of energy. I’m pretty sure the rest helped …”
While the resting of players will almost certainly continue for Atlanta, don’t expect the players who do suit up to be any less ferocious, even though they have a 14.5-game lead over Washington in the Southeast Division. ,
“We’ve worked hard this year … But the job is not done,” said All-Star Paul Millsap, who has helped the Hawks reach 50 wins faster than any team in franchise history.
Tonight, the Hawks will be facing a Nuggets team which has shown some moxie since firing head coach Brian Shaw. The squad is 3-2 under Shaw’s replacement, Melvin Hunt, including a decisive 106-78 win over the New York Knicks on Monday.
“Playing at that pace is fun, it’s exciting,” said Denver forward Kenneth Faried. “The fans get into it, we get into it, we get to stand up for a big play. It’s not just, bring the ball upcourt, pass it into the post. It’s more like bring it up, pass, cut, backspin, spin, lob – all that stuff.”
It would be nice to say that the Nuggets have turned things around but, in reality, they have only topped lackluster squads under Hunt (the NBA-worst Knicks, the Western Conference-worst T-Wolves, and the slumping Bucks).
Whereas the Hawks are not only the best team in the East, but also boast a phenomenal 41-22 ATS on the season. That’s why the play is Atlanta laying the points (-6), even though a player or two may get some rest.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)