The Atlanta Hawks are sliding in the wrong direction with nine losses in 11 games and aim to begin a turnaround when they host the Boston Celtics on Thursday. It won’t be easy for the Hawks as the game against Boston, the second-place team in the Eastern Conference, is followed by consecutive contests versus East-leading Cleveland.
The Celtics limp into Atlanta after being thrashed 114-91 by the Cavaliers on Wednesday to fall one game back in the battle for the No. 1 seed. “You name it, they were better in every category and made it really tough on us,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “They played with more purpose, more pace. Again, you name it, they won it.” Atlanta’s decline has seen it dip to sixth place in the East – one-half game behind Milwaukee – in a congested playoff race. All-Star power forward Paul Millsap (knee) returned from an eight-game absence on Sunday but scored just 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting in Sunday’s 91-82 loss to lowly Brooklyn.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The Celtics opened as 1.5-point road favorites over the Hawks, that line was quickly dropped to 1 before being bet up to 2, before fading back to the opening number. The total hit the betting board at 209 and was bet down a full point to 208, before returning to 209 Friday morning. Check out the complete line history here.
Celtics – SF Jae Crowder (Probable, elbow), C Tyler Zeller (Questionable, personal).
Hawks – SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (Probable, knee), PF Paul Millsap (Probable, knee), SF Kent Bazemore (Probable, knee), PG Malcolm Delaney (Questionable, back), SF Thabo Sefolosha (Out, groin)
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Cavaliers (-5.8) – Celtics (-6.1) + home court (-3) = Celtics -3.3
Futures odds provided by Sports Interaction.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (50-28 SU, 38-38-2 ATS, 37-38-3 O/U): Boston covets the No. 1 overall seed in case of a potential Game 7 against the Cavaliers in the postseason, so the blowout loss was a huge setback. Standout guard Isaiah Thomas, who hit a game-winning basket against the Hawks earlier this season, recorded 26 points against Cleveland and has topped 20 in 13 of his last 14 contests. Small forward Jae Crowder (elbow) played against Cleveland and scored 13 points but definitely is less than full strength.
ABOUT THE HAWKS (39-38 SU, 35-42 ATS, 29-46-2 O/U): Millsap isn’t operating at full strength but has had time to recover from Sunday’s tilt with a three-day stretch without a game. His return couldn’t halt Atlanta’s recent woes and Millsap was highly frustrated over the loss to the NBA’s worst team. “I think everyone is disappointed with the loss,” Millsap told reporters. “But at the end of the day, we have to get some wins. We know that. As long as everyone else keeps losing under us, we just have to make it to the playoffs. If we get there, we feel like we have a really good chance.”
* Celtics are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up loss of more than 10 points.
* Hawks are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games following a straight up loss.
* Under is 9-1-2 in Celtics last 12 road games.
* Under is 6-1 in Hawks last 7 vs. Eastern Conference.
* Under is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings in Atlanta.
Check out a complete list of hot and cold trends, here.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 64 percent of the spread wagers are on the road chalk Celtics while 52 percent of the totals selections are on the Under. View full consensus data here.