Three at 3: Hawks Catching Clippers at the Right Time

Zachary Cohen
Sports Illustrated

After going 2-1 on Friday to extend its current winning run to 31-11, Three at 3 is back with your Monday night NBA bets.

1. Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets (+3)

7:00 pm ET

The 98-86 final score in the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday doesn't quite convey how poorly they played. Simply put, Boston was embarrassed by the Jazz on its home court. For the second time in five nights, Brad Stevens’s team shot under 40% from the floor. The Celtics are still struggling to figure things out offensively—Kyrie Irving can’t be counted on to bail them out every night, like he did against the Toronto Raptors on Friday—and they’re going to need to get hot soon.

Fortunately for the Cs, they're actually in a good spot tonight in Charlotte. Since the start of last season, the Celtics are 18-7 against the spread when facing teams that outscore their opponents by three or more points per game, and 62-44 ATS versus teams that attempt 18 or more threes per game. Meanwhile, Charlotte is a lousy 3-14 against the spread when playing as a home underdog since the start of the 2016-17 season. The Hornets are also coming off of a demoralizing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that saw Kemba Walker drop 60 points, only for the Hornets to fall short in overtime. Kemba won't go for 60 again tonight, and—with the Celtics being one of the best defensive teams in the league—it's hard to see who on the Hornets is going to pick up that slack.

Pick: Celtics (-3)

2. Los Angeles Clippers at Atlanta Hawks (+8)

7:30 pm

The Clippers have arguably exceeded expectations to a greater degree than any team in the league this season, as Doc Rivers’s ragtag group of misfits is 10-5 and currently sits at fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency rating. When looking at this roster, it takes a minute to come to grips with just how well the team is playing. But the fact of the matter is that there is a great mix of young players and veterans, and everybody in this Los Angeles team knows their role.

Tonight, though, the Clippers are giving an awful lot of points on the road, and Atlanta has been more competitive in recent games than it may seem. Despite having lost seven straight coming into this one, the Hawks have covered in three of their last four and five of their last eight games. It’s also worth noting that Los Angeles has had a brutal travel schedule over the last week. The Clippers had to fly across the country through a snowstorm to get to their game against the Nets in Brooklyn, and then had a quick turnaround before having to play the Hawks here. That could take its toll on some of these players. Another thing to consider is the fact that the Clippers are just 11-24 against the spread as road favorites of 6.5 to 12 points during Rivers's tenure as coach.

Pick: Hawks (+8)

3. San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans (-7.5)

8:00 pm

The Spurs’ road struggles this season are well-documented, as this team is 6-2 in San Antonio but just 2-5 when away from home. Considering how tight the race for the playoffs will be in the Western Conference this season, that disparity will be enough to cost San Antonio its postseason hopes if the team doesn’t figure out how to win on the road. Meanwhile, New Orleans is one of the best teams in basketball when playing in front of its home crowd. The Pelicans are currently 7-1 straight up when playing at the Smoothie King Center, but the team is just 4-4 against the spread in those games.

Given that middling home ATS record for New Orleans, the line for tonight's game is shaded a bit too far toward the Pelicans. Something to keep an eye on when looking at this game is the fact that New Orleans is 0-7 against the spread versus teams that make 36% or more of their threes this season. The Pelicans are also just 10-17 ATS when playing as a home favorite of 6.5 to 12 points under current head coach Alvin Gentry. San Antonio is coming into this game with a ton of confidence, having defeated the Warriors 104-92 as a three-point home favorite on Sunday. The Spurs have now played very well in two straight games—despite the first being a five-point loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles—and DeMar DeRozan is a huge part of that. The 29-year-old is playing some of the best basketball of his career with his new team, and there is nobody on the Pelicans that can effectively check him on the perimeter. He should keep San Antonio close throughout.

Pick: Spurs (+7.5)

Overall Record: 44-26-2

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