Without Josh Smith, the Atlanta Hawks still managed to break out of their skid two days ago with a 109-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Now they’ll try to repeat the feat in New York on Friday when the mercurial forward returns to the line-up.
Smith’s suspension for a reported outburst in practice likely paves the way for a summer parting of the ways and it reflects the Hawks' regression after a promising start. The Nets game aside, they’ve only picked up three wins from their last ten games, with much of their struggles coming on the road. They’ve averaged less than 83 points over their last five appearances away from the ATL.
Brooklyn are a respectable 15-7 and have been making a good case for PJ Carlesimo to have the interim tag removed from his coaching position, winning eight of their last ten. With Smith on the court, figure on fewer total points being scored, with the line at 192.0. But the Nets – who are rated at -6 on the handicap - should hold the upper hand.
Oklahoma City ended Dallas’ reign as NBA champions in ruthless fashion when they swept the Mavericks out of the play-offs last spring. And there seems little hope of Dallas faring much better when they host the Thunder, who still boast the league’s best record of 31-8.
The Mavs have undergone a mini-revival with four wins in a row, including victories over Houston and Memphis. When the teams met three weeks ago, Kevin Durant scored 40 in an 111-105 overtime victory but with the Thunder on a five-game winning streak and in ominous form, take them on the handicap of -4 at 1.88.
With both Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett earning starting spots in next month’s All Star Game, the Boston Celtics will look to live up to their billing when they host the Chicago Bulls. Boston come off a woeful 90-78 loss to New Orleans two days ago, when their recent three-point shooting slump came home to roost. With the Bulls frontline of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah likely to prove hard to handle, Boston could face a hard night.
Bet of the day: Go under 192 total points in Brooklyn-Atlanta at 1.85.