After defeating the West’s best, the Golden State Warriors, to regain their spot at the top of the NBA standings, the Atlanta Hawks face the second best team in the Western Conference when they travel to the Memphis Grizzlies (6pm Sunday EST).
Over the past few years in the NBA, the Western Conference has been significantly better than its Eastern counterpart. Eleven of the last 16 NBA Championships have been won by the West. In fact, many teams in the West who missed out on the playoffs, would have gone as top-five seeds in the East.
And while this year the pattern is following the same formula, the Atlanta Hawks are finding themselves as the exception that proves the rule. The Hawks are 13-3 against the West Coast this year including a run of nine-straight wins which set a franchise record. In doing so they have defeated Golden State (39-9), Memphis (37-13), Houston (35-15) and Portland (34-16).
Only one team in the NBA has over 40 wins and it’s the Hawks. Only one team has won 25 of its 28 home games, also the Hawks.
Atlanta has been the on-again, off-again, currently on-again, best team since December, not just in the East but in the entire NBA. They have been impressive and unexpected. They have done it will pinpoint shooting and the second most assists per game in the league. They have done it with defense but most of all, they have done it by beating the conference which still stands as the best in the NBA.
So while the West is still the best conference, the Hawks are definitely the best team.
Memphis vs Atlanta, Take Two!
The first time the Eastern and Western powers met this season, Memphis was in the midst of a 4-7 stretch, their worst 11-game mark of the season. During that period, forward Zach Randolph was injured, leaving close to 17 points and 12 rebounds on the bench. His absence was clear in the game as Memphis was almost out rebounded by Atlanta, who is the fourth worst team in the league in that category.
Atlanta won the game by 10 behind point guard Jeff Teague, who dropped 25 points in a statsheet-loaded day. Additionally, three of the other four starters finished in double figures in points and Pero Antic provided 13 off of the bench as well. Atlanta was the home team.
Since this matchup, Memphis, now the home team, have won 12 of 14 games in large part because of Randolph’s return. The 33-year-old Randolph has averaged over 20 points and close to 15 rebounds in his last eight home games, helping his team to five straight home wins. Overall, Memphis has looked like an all-around better squad at home, where they will be looking for their sixth straight win and 10 in the last 11. Additionally, Memphis has lost just one at home this year against the East.
Memphis will be entering the game in a much better position to win than the last time, but Atlanta has gotten no worse. In fact, they might even be a bit better themselves.
Recently coming off a 19-game winning streak, the Hawks have been having their best shooting performances as of late. The team overall is sixth in the NBA in scoring and sharpshooter Kyle Korver (pictured) is shooting a tick above 50% from behind the arc, an unprecedented mark for anyone but Korver, who owns the NBA record at 53.6.
Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies Betting Picks
Both the Hawks and the Grizzlies are great teams and in the midst of great runs. Atlanta is coming off an incredible stretch of basketball. Their star Teague has averaged over 23 points in the past month and the team as a whole has played solid basketball. Behind a sharing of the ball, Atlanta, a team that was just the eight-seed in last year’s postseason, has reached the top of the standings. They have no superstar per se, just a fundamental team where everything is going right this year.
Memphis, has been having a run of success as well. Ascending to the ranks of one of the best in the west over the past few seasons, they continue to play well behind veteran Randolph and last season’s defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol. To that vein, they lead the NBA in points allowed.
- The Grizzlies have been top notch at home this year and while Atlanta has been great on the road as well, my money is on Memphis. They’ve been hot and they are finally healthy. The game will be close no doubt but ultimately the Grizzlies should get the win. The spread is Memphis Grizzlies -2pts generally, so the betting pick is to bet on the Grizzlies to win and cover that -2pts spread @ best odds of evens with Bovada. It is currently -108 with BetOnline and -110 with 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.