Play-In Tournament: Charlotte at Atlanta

If the Hawks can get past Charlotte at home on Wednesday, they'll play at Cleveland on Friday night to determine the East's No. 8 seed.

Atlanta and Charlotte’s seasons will be on the line Wednesday night when they collide at State Farm Arena in the NBA’s Play-In Tournament. The winner will hit the road to play Friday at Cleveland, while the loser gets sent into vacation.

As of Tuesday night, most books had Atlanta (43-39 straight up, 37-45 against the spread) installed as a 4.5 or five-point favorite with a total of 236 or 236.5. The Hornets were +160 to +165 on the money line. The Hawks were -2.5 for first-half wagers and -1.5 for first-quarter bets.

However, by early Wednesday morning, many books had moved Atlanta up to -5.5 (and -3 for first-half plays).

Nate McMillan’s team owns a 27-14 SU record and a 23-18 ATS mark in 41 home games this season The Hawks have won 11 of their last 12 home contests, going 8-4 ATS. Since Jan. 17, they’ve won 19 of 22 home games while going 16-6 ATS.

After advancing to the Eastern Conference finals last year, it’s been a disappointing campaign for Atlanta, especially after GM Travis Schlenk brought back every roster piece of significance. Also, he added depth to the backcourt with Delon Wright.

These remarks from McMillan sum up how Atlanta underperformed during the regular season:

With that said, Atlanta has played better down the stretch. There’s also optimism that John Collins might be ready to return Wednesday night after missing the last 16 regular-season games with injuries to his foot and a finger. In 54 regular-season contests, Collins averaged 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 blocked shots per game.

Atlanta veteran guard Lou Williams is also ‘out’ vs. Charlotte due to lower back discomfort. For the first time since his rookie season, Williams didn’t average in double figures this year. He averaged 6.3 points, 1.9 assists and 1.6 RPG. Williams averaged only 14.3 minutes per game, his lowest usage rate since his rookie campaign.

Charlotte (43-39 SU, 45-35-2 ATS) is 21-20 SU and 23-17-1 ATS in 41 road assignments this year. The Hornets won their last three regular-season games both SU and ATS, winning by margins of 16, 16 and 27 points.

Charlotte will face Atlanta without Gordon Hayward, who is ‘out’ indefinitely with a foot injury. In 49 games this year, Hayward averaged 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game.

These clubs split four head-to-head meetings both SU and ATS during the regular season. In the first encounter on Nov. 20, Atlanta won a 115-105 decision as a seven-point home favorite. The 220 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 226-point total.

Clint Capela led the way with 20 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots. Five other Hawks scored at least 15 points, including Trae Young (19 points), Kevin Huerter (17), Cam Reddish (17), Danilo Gallinari (16) and Collins (15). Young dished out nine assists, while Collins had eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

Charlotte returned to Atlanta on Dec. 5 and captured a 130-127 win as a 7.5-point underdog. The 257 combined points soared ‘over’ the 225-point total.

Miles Bridges was the catalyst for the Hornets, producing 32 points, four rebounds, three steals, one blocked shot and four assists without a turnover. Kelly Oubre Jr. added 28 points for the winners, while Cody Martin added 19 points, six boards, four assists and a pair of steals.

In the losing effort, Collins had 31 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Huerter had 28 points on 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range, while Young finished with 25 points and 15 assists.

Atlanta destroyed Charlotte 113-91 as a 1.5-point road underdog on Jan. 23. The 204 combined points went ‘under’ the 233-point tally. Young led the way for the Hawks with 30 points on 8-of-15 shooting from downtown.

In the final regular-season meeting, Charlotte beat Atlanta 116-106 as a one-point home underdog. The 222 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 240.5-point total.

LaMelo Ball led the way for the Hornets with 22 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, one block and one steal. Montrezl Harrell added 20 points and six boards.

The ‘under’ has cashed at a 4-1 clip in Atlanta’s last five games, but the ‘over’ is still 43-39 overall. The ‘under’ has gone 41-40-1 overall for the Hornets.

The ‘under’ is on a 6-1 run in the last seven games of this rivalry. However, the ‘over’ has gone 6-2 in the last eight meetings played in Atlanta.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

PREDICTION: I like Atlanta -4.5 for the game for two units. I’ll also have one-half unit on the Hawks in both the first quarter (-1.5) and the first half (-2.5).

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