Who would have expected that, as All Star break nears, Friday’s duel between the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors would be the NBA season’s most-anticipated duel so far?
It’s a symptom of just how impeccable these two have been during the last three months with the Hawks 34-3 over their last 37 games and the Warriors an uber-consistent 39-8 so far.
That’s put them top of their respective Conferences with plaudits aplenty. But while Golden State have moved up to 5.50 favourites for the championship, Atlanta are still only a mere third in the odds table just to claim the Eastern title behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls.
In reality, that’s just a lack of open mind, the school of thought that says you have to be a contender before being a champion. The Hawks are playing unselfish team basketball, a reason they have four All Stars, and while they lack a true A-List performer, they will trouble anyone.
Yet Golden State do have something extra in the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, while Andrew Bogut has the second best defensive rating in the league behind Tim Duncan. It’s helped balance out an offense that is putting up a NBA-high 111.4 points per game.
That’s why the Warriors are worth a punt on the handicap of -3.5 over Atlanta – and why I’d back going under the total points line of 209.5 at 2.50 with so much cancelling each other out.
It’s going to be fascinating to watch. And if the Hawks come up trumps, expect more of the doubters to disappear.
LA Train Wreck
Sunday’s duel between the Cleveland Cavaliers and LA Lakers could be one of this season’s great mis-matches.
The Cavs winning streak now stands at 12, having held their last ten opponents to under 100 points and under 45% shooting. The Lakers, who have won only one of their last 11, don’t even average above 100. Take a -17.5 handicap at the very least.
Best bet: Under 209.5 total points in Atlanta-Golden State at 2.50