NBA East: Heat Aim for Fifth Win in a RowBy Daniel J.
The Association boasts a rather modest seven game slate today, three of which take place in the Eastern Conference, but those three do involve some of the best teams in the league. The Hawks will look to rediscover their winning ways against the Knicks, while the Pistons hope to pick up a road win in Orlando. However, the biggest game of the day has to be between old rivals–the Heat and the Celtics–who are both on streaks, but only one is on the positive side of theirs entering Sunday’s match-up.
Atlanta Hawks +5.5 at New York Knicks -5.5
After hitting a rough patch, the Hawks are beginning to return to their early season form and enter today’s road test against the Knicks on a nice three-game win streak. Meanwhile, it’s the Knicks who have struggled a bit recently, winning only five of their last 10. However, they’ve had plenty of success against Atlanta in recent history, winning four of the last five meetings between the teams, although the two squads will be meeting for the first time this season today.
Atlanta has had a tough time against the Knicks and a tough time at Madison Square Garden, winning only five of their last 23 games there. The Knicks have thrived at home this year, going 14-6, so the scenery alone should give them a decisive advantage.
Defensively, both teams are pretty evenly matched, but with Raymond Felton back from injury, the Knicks have a significant edge on the offensive side of the ball. I like New York to cover -5.5 at home today and earn another victory in this series and for Carmelo Anthony to score more than 20 points for the 29th consecutive game.
Detroit Pistons +2 at Orlando Magic -2
Both teams are entering tonight’s game with well under .500 marks and on short skids, but don’t think they won’t each come hungry and searching to turn things around. The Pistons have actually had a decent month after starting very slow, while the Magic have pretty much stayed around a 30-40 win percentage for most of the year.
The Magic are favorites at home today, but home hasn’t been so sweet for Orlando lately. The Magic have lost nine of their last 10 at home and eight in a row to losing teams, so on paper this match-up doesn’t bode too well for them.
And since the Pistons are 5-5 in their last 10, I’d stick with the hotter team in this one and take Detroit to cover +2 and win outright.
Miami Heat -4 at Boston Celtics +4
Both teams are streaking, but the Heat are the only ones going in the right direction. Currently on a four-game win streak, the Heat will look to make it five, while the Celtics will simply hope to a avoid dropping their seventh in a row.
The Celtics are quickly sliding down the Eastern Conference standings and although their defense has picked up, it’s now their offense that is letting the team down, with their points per game output down to just 95.
Don’t expect the Heat to let the foot off the accelerator, even on the road. Miami comes in to tonight’s rivalry bout scoring nearly 103 points per game and the Celtics certainly remember the 120 they gave up to the Heat the last time these teams met, which was back on Oct. 30, the first game of the season.
Look for Miami to get the best of the Celtics again and cover -4 on the road tonight, extending their streak and Boston’s woes in the process.