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May 3, 2015 (Posted at 11:00 AM ET)

Take Atlanta Hawks at -5 spread against Washington Wizards risking 3% of the bankroll.

We enter the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs this afternoon as the Wizards take on the #1 seeded Hawks in the opener of this exciting best of 7 series. 

The Wizards made quick work of their first round opponents as they swept the Toronto Raptors 4 games to zero. While many may consider that a statement series and think that the Wizards should come into this game fully rested and focused on the task at hand, we feel that the extended time off that they have had prior to this matchup will actually hurt them in the early going. During the regular season, teams typically play on a 2 or 3 day schedule, meaning they rarely get more than 3 days off between contests, so they are always in full "game shape". The Wizards have had a full week off prior to this matchup and we feel that is simply too much time off and will likely have a negative effect on their timing and rhythm when heading back into game-speed. The Hawks meanwhile played a much tougher series with the Brooklyn Nets; however they are on a much shorter rest schedule, a schedule that they have been used to playing. They have received the adequate amount of rest and will be the team that is likely more prepared heading into this contest. The Hawks player’s bodies are already accustomed to playing at full game-speed while it may take the Wizards players just a bit longer to adapt back into a more physical style of play. Washington has shown their struggle this season when receiving too much rest and has often come out flat given their 1-4 ATS record this season when receiving extra time off. 

Looking back at the first round performances of both teams, while many feel that the Wizards had an easier time with their opponents and the Hawks may have struggled more than expected, we believe the tightly contest series against Nets will benefit them much more in this upcoming series. They did not have an easy time with their opponents like the Wizards did. Toronto was out-matched on numerous fronts and had often mounted huge leads in the second half. That can cause players to become mentally distracted. Basketball games are played for a full 48 mins and when teams have mounted such big leads, we often see players "taking plays off" and not playing with complete and total focus for the full duration of the game. The Nets were fighting from behind and putting in solid efforts and any every game which caused the Hawks players to remain focused and not get complacent. While it may seem like a small thing in the grand scope of the playoffs, it's these little things that add up the deeper teams go in the series. While the Wizards will no doubt be focused, we believe the Hawks are the more battle tested and ready team to compete in the opening game of the series. It has been a while since the Wizards have played a truly tough, meaningful game and we feel that will put them at a disadvantage this afternoon. 

The Hawks managed to beat the Wizards 3 out of the 4 meetings this season. The lone win by the Wizards was at the end of the season when the Hawks rested all of their starters in preparation for the postseason. There is a reason why the Wizards finished 14 games behind the Hawks this season. Washington is a solid team and had high expectations heading into this season; however they have proven not to be at an "elite" level just yet. The Hawks are in fact an elite team, especially on their home court. They have proven to be the epitome of the word "team" and have done so by being completely unselfish with the basketball. They receive contributions from everywhere on the court and while they don't necessarily have a John Wall or a Bradley Beal on their team who make up a majority of the offensive efforts, they make up for their lack of a "superstar" by having an all-around solid core of contributors who have all stepped up at different points in the season to help their team win. 

As we stated earlier, the Hawks do own quite an advantage on their home court. They are 38-16 at home, 12-4 against division opponents and 42-16 against conference opponents, which rank at the top in the Eastern conference. They are 64-24 on the season, 40 games above a .500 record and they have often not only beaten teams this season, but have done so fairly easily and often times by double digits. We believe the odds makers got this line wrong simply because of the perception that their series with the Nets has placed on them and the fact that the Wizards swept their first round opponents. This is a skewed sense of perception in our opinion. People may view the value as being on the visitors this afternoon; however we believe it is the Hawks who are showing the value laying "only" 5 points. It's worth mentioning that even though the Hawks had appeared to struggle against the Nets in their series, their wins had all been by more than 5 points. We feel this line could have been even a point or two higher. 

Game 1 usually sets the tone for the remainder of the series and is arguably the toughest to predict. There are a number of things that could happen in this upcoming series, but looking back at the entire body of work of both teams dating back to the regular season and including the playoffs thus far, we still believe the Hawks are the much better overall team and will challenge the Wizards in ways that the Raptors simply could not. The Hawks will be ready to show everyone exactly why they are the top ranked team in the East and we believe they come out and make a statement in Game 1 by coming away with a convincing win and cover. The Hawks should have this game in hand in the final minutes and barring a late three pointer when the game is out of reach, Atlanta should cover this spread by a couple of baskets. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Hawks are 20-10 ATS after a double-digit win this season!
  • Wizards are just 1-13 in their last 14 trips to Atlanta!
  • Hawks are 7-1 ATS as a home favorite of 3.5 to 6 points this season!
  • Wizards are only 4-11 ATS vs. division opponents this season.
  • Hawks are 25-10 ATS vs. teams with winning records this season!

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