It’s an inter-conference showdown in Atlanta at the State Farm Arena tonight. The suddenly surging Atlanta Hawks take on the resilient Oklahoma City Thunder in an interconference tilt. We’re here to tell you that where you should be laying your money down at online sportsbooks.
Moneyline Betting Odds
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+230|
Spread Betting Odds
|Atlanta Hawks||-7 -115|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||+7 -105|
Over/Under Betting Odds
|Atlanta Hawks||O 224.5 -113|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||U 224.5 -107|
Just a couple weeks ago, the Hawks looked like one of the biggest disappointments in the league. But a coaching change has energized them to the tune of six straight victories, which is tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the league’s longest current streak. With that hot stretch, the Hawks have moved into a tie for sixth in the East, incredibly just a game-and-a-half our of fourth, which would mean home court in the first round of the playoffs.
In Oklahoma City, the story this year has been one of perseverance in the face of mounting injuries and massive personnel changes. Mark Daigneault has done an admirable job in his first year as head coach keeping this team above water. Even as the franchise looks forward to a future filled with high draft picks, this group has stayed competitive, with a 17-23 record and a .500 record over their last ten.
There are a lot of moving parts on the injury report for each team that could make waiting until game time to make your wager a smart move. For the Thunder, they’ll still be without Darius Bazley, who’s been starting at power forward for much of the year. And three more starters are up in the air.
Rookie point guard Theo Maledon is questionable with a sprained thumb on his non-shooting left thumb. Meanwhile, off-guard Luguentz Dort, who has missed the last two games with a sprained toe, is also questionable as he hopes to make his return. In other words, the Thunder’s backcourt is anybody’s guess right now.
Then there’s the curious case of Al Horford. You would think that the veteran center would be highly motivated to play in this contest:
Revenge Game: Al Horford plays Atlanta tonight. He played 578 games in his career for the Hawks.
— Narrative Street (@RotoNarratives) March 18, 2021
But no one knows if Horford will be suiting up in this one. He had been sitting out the second game of back-to-backs due to rest all year long, but he sat out the Thunder’s game two nights ago even though it wasn’t a back-to-back speculation. The issue could be Oklahoma City sitting him out so as to protect before a possible trade deadline move.
Atlanta also has some injury issues. They’ll definitely be without second-year wings DeAndre Hunter and Josh Reddick, both of whom are on the mend from injuries that have kept them out for weeks. Center Clint Capela is questionable with a heel injury that’s been kept him out of the Hawks victory on Tuesday night, but he’s been a key component of the hot streak otherwise:
During Hawks 6 Game Winning Streak: (Clint Capela)
PPG: 14 pic.twitter.com/jBSzsxmCRU
— The Official Atlanta Hawks Sports Network (@AtlantaHawksSN) March 18, 2021
Nate McMillan took over for the fired Lloyd Pierce with the Hawks looking like one of the league’s biggest disappointments. After the team invested a ton in free agency to supplement a bevy of young, talented players, Pierce had trouble meshing them all. Injuries didn’t help the situation.
If there’s one area where Atlanta has turned it around under McMillan it’s in the fourth quarter. Under Pierce, their fourth quarter defensive rating languished at 120.4, worst in the league. In the first five games of the winning streak, that mark improved drastically to 88.6, and that was before the Hawks clamped down on Houston on Tuesday night late, holding them to only 15 fourth-quarter points.
Part of the recent success certainly has to do with the quality of the opponents. With the exception of a win over Miami, who has also been scorching hot, to start the streak, Atlanta hasn’t exactly been knocking off championship contenders. But the devotion to defense late bodes well against a Thunder team which struggles to score itself, sitting 28th out of 30 in offensive rating.
One of the Hawks’ biggest offseason acquisitions was Danilo Gallinari, who had played brilliantly for the Thunder in 2019-20. But injuries kept him from developing any rhythm while Pierce was coach. There were moments, like his ridiculous 38-point game against Boston:
But it wasn’t until McMillan came aboard that Gallinari really started to look like his former, sharpshooting self. Look at the numbers
- Gallinari during winning streak: 51.4% FG, 100% FT, 48.9% 3-PT, 19.2 PPG
McMillan has been using Gallinari to close out games, even at the expense of young star forward John Collins. Whatever the case, it’s working. And Gallinari could be one of the key reasons that Atlanta keeps it rolling against Oklahoma City tonight.
Who Are These Guys?
It’s hard to say who will actually be on the court for the Thunder tonight. Between the injuries and the murky situation with Horford, they could have a full deck or a lineup of mostly subs. But it’s important to realize that many of those subs, while not household names, have had some positive moments at times recently:
- Isaiah Roby: Double figures scoring in each of last three games
- Ty Jerome: 11.3 PPG, 4.3 APG last three
- Kenrich Williams: 14.7 PPG last three on 70.4 FG% shooting
- Moses Brown: 20 points, 16 rebounds on Tuesday
- Aleksej Pokusevski: 23 points, 10 rebounds on Saturday
Obviously, much of the Thunder offense will still run through Shae Gilgeous-Alexander, the rising star guard who had a streak of three straight 30-point performances snapped on Tuesday night. But the point is that there isn’t too much of a drop-off when these other guys are forced to play. It should be interesting to see if they can bring some energy to a tough road matchup.
What’s the Best Bet?
The Thunder are using to going into an enemy arena as an underdog, and they’ve actually performed well in that scenario. They are 12-7 covering against the spread in those situations. In addition, they’re over .500 against the spread in interconference games.
The last game of a home stand can be a tricky one for teams, as they sometimes have one foot out the door. That’s the situation the Hawks are in here. Even though they’re playing well and might sneak out a win, look for the scrappy young Thunder to keep it close enough to gut out a cover.
Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog.
For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h …