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NBA picks: Hawks host Raptors in battle for East supremacy

Bet on the Raptors vs. Hawks GameToronto Raptors vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview

Start: Friday, February 20th 2015 at 7:30pm ET
Location: Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
Station: SPSO & Sportsnet One

THE Toronto Raptors 36-17 (26-26-1 ATS) will attempt to make up ground on the NBA Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks 43-11 (37-17 ATS) on Friday night at the Philips Arena. Toronto are 2-1 against Atlanta this season, including a 1-0 record on the road.

Toronto won the first two games and covered the point spread, but Atlanta won the only meeting this year. The first two games in the H2H series went over the total, while the third went under. Will the Raptors be able to steal another win in Atlanta?

Raptors vs. Hawks gambling lines

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Atlanta have the best home record (25-3) in the East and there is no question they’ll be favored. The over/under will be opened up at over 200 points – the question is by how much? I lean to the under, but whether I place a bet will depend on the opening line.

Injury update

The All-Star break allowed these teams to rest up, although neither team was banged up. Thabo Sefolosha is injured for the Hawks and Lucas Nogueira is out for the Raptors. Sefolosha is the bigger loss, but neither player contributes much on the court.

Who has the edge on offense?

Toronto and Atlanta can put up a lot of points in a hurry. The Hawks play a lot of catch and shoot basketball, while the Raptors like to attack the rim with their guards. Toronto have to protect the basketball and attack the offensive glass to beat the Hawks.

I checked out the box scores for the H2H meetings this season and one thing stood out to me. The team that won the game also had more fast break points and more points in the paint. Surprisingly, the Raptors have won the rebounding battle in all three games.

DeMar DeRozan is averaging 22.3 PPG against the Hawks – 4.0 PPG above his season average of 18.3 PPG. He played his best game in the loss in January, as he finished the game with 25 points (11-18), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 32 minutes.

Kyle Lowry is back from the ASG and will do his thing on the court, but look out for Lou Williams. Williams hasn’t played well against his former team at the ACC, but in the lone game in Atlanta he put up 22 points, 2 assists and 3 steals in 26 minutes.

One factor that makes the Hawks so deadly is their depth. The five starters (Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford) are all averaging at least 12.0 PPG. When one player has an off night the rest pick up the slack.

Who has the edge on defense?

The coaches on both teams were preaching defense during the All-Star break. Therefore, I expect both teams to come out working hard on the defensive end. Everyone is well rested, plus it wouldn’t surprise me if both teams show a little rust on offense.

This game could come down to which team protects the paint better. Horford and Millsap are veterans that aren’t afraid to mix it up on defense. Atlanta allows 39.7 points in the paint per game (8th), while the Raptors allow 43.1 points in the paint per game (23rd).

Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson have to play well on both ends of the floor for the Raptors. JV and Johnson scored in double digits in the two wins against Atlanta, but neither passed that threshold in the loss – showing how important the big men are.

Atlanta has an edge on defense, but the one position where you can beat them is shooting guard. Korver couldn’t cover me – let alone DeRozan. DeRozan has a high usage rate to begin with and that number will be even higher in this prime match-up.

Raptors vs. Hawks predictions

UPDATE:The lines opened up basically where I thought they would. I’m betting on the under 204.5 points and I’m also going to take a shot on the Raptors, despite the point spread opening up a bit lower than I hoped.

As long as the total opens up at 200+ points I’ll bet on the under. I don’t expect the final score to exceed 200 points. The last time these teams played in Atlanta there were 241 points scored, although that’s an anomaly in this H2H series.

The match-up last month had 199 points and that’s closer to what I expect to see on Friday night. Mike Budenholzer and Dwane Casey both want the defensive intensity to step up and this battle between the top teams in the East will be intense.

Toronto wants to win the conference badly and they’re right in striking distance. This is a tough road game against a team that just sent four starters to the All-Star Game, but if the Raptors want to win the East they need to win big games down the stretch.

As long as Toronto opens up as a +5 underdog or higher on the point spread I’ll bet them too.

I’ll update my picks later in the week once Bovada releases the lines.

ScottThis article was written by Scott

Scott is one of the original degenerates working for MobileSportsBetting.com. Although he's most successful betting on NFL football and international soccer, he's also active in UFC and NHL hockey betting.

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