|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The Hornets will visit Atlanta on the second night of a back-to-back as they look to extend a five-game winning streak, one that nearly ended on Friday against the Pacers.
We learned how subpar Charlotte can be defensively in that game, and is it possible we can apply that lesson towards Saturday’s game against the Hawks?
Let’s dig into this one.
Streaking Hornets Need Defensive Improvement
The Hornets should have had a sweat-free on the front-end of their back-to-back Friday, and with it a chance to rest their key players before facing the Hawks. Instead, Charlotte was outscored by 12 points in the second half and barely held on against Indiana. With that, we can expect the Hornets to have some tired legs here.
On the second night of back-to-backs, the Hornets are 0-3 against the spread (ATS) this season and winless straight-up in those games. They have failed to cover by an average margin of six points, though it hasn’t been due to a lack of offense. On average, they’ve scored 120.7 points in these three games (albeit one did go to overtime), but their defense has held them back.
That’s been a theme this year for Charlotte, which ranks 25th in defensive efficiency entering Saturday. It’s not as if you can chalk it up to bad luck or shooting variance, either. The Hornets are really this bad. They sit in the bottom eight of the league in field goal percentage allowed in the paint and the restricted area.
The offense has been tantalizing all season long with great play from LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges. Charlotte has scored the eighth-most points per 100 possessions.
The other side of the ball has been the issue, rearing its ugly head less than 24 hours ago in a near-collapse against the middling Pacers.
Atlanta Struggles to Guard Opposing Guards
Atlanta’s offense continues to chug along despite injuries popping up left and right. Bogdan Bogdanovic has been banged up, Clint Capela had to be eased back into action at the beginning of the season and De’Andre Hunter is still out after right wrist surgery.
Like the Hornets, it has been incredibly exciting to watch, ranking fifth in the NBA in Offensive Rating. Also like Charlotte, the Hawks have been ultimately capped due to their defensive struggles.
Atlanta wasn’t a very good defensive team last year, but it turned it on in the playoffs to go on an inspired run. While it’s always possible the switch could be flipped again at some point this season, the fact remains that the Hawks are 7-9 with a defense that ranks inside the bottom five in efficiency rating.
It’s been a particular struggle for Atlanta to slow opposing guards, who are scoring roughly 23 points per game at each backcourt position. That’s not very encouraging when you consider the prospects of facing Ball, and it’s not like Terry Rozier hasn’t shined at times this year.
What Atlanta does have working for it here is a massive rebounding edge. It sits fourth in the NBA with 51.6% of available rebounds collected and should body Charlotte, which ranks 25th.
Both of these defenses have been bad, and we’ve also touched on just how bad this Charlotte defense has been on the second night of back-to-backs. It seems the Hornets have had nothing left in the tank on the defensive end, and that’s why the over is 3-0 in these spots, hitting by 23.7 points per game.
The total may be a bit high (for this season’s standards, anyway) but I see it as the only option. Trae Young and this Atlanta backcourt have struggled to defend all year and should have nothing for Ball. Atlanta should also be able to score down low and simply be more physical than Charlotte in getting second chance points.
The total has moved up to 227 at most books, but you can get 226.5 at BetMGM as of Saturday morning.
Pick: Over 226.5