Atlanta Hawks -6 (-118) @ Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves play host to the Atlanta Hawks tonight at Target Center. While victories for the 11-40 Minnesota squad have generally been hard to come by this season, the Wolves will enter this evenings' matchup on a three-game winning streak. Coincident with Minnesota's uncharacteristic success, starting Point Guard, Ricky Rubio, returned to the Wolve's lineup four games ago. However, Rubio recently re-injured the ankle he first hurt in game 5. This aggravation caused him to miss the Wolves' last out at Detroit. Rubio is expected to go tonight, though.
The Hawks are a red-hot 9-1 in their last 10 games, but are a much chillier 3-5 ATS of late. Three of the five losses versus the number though came in games where the Hawks won convincingly, but fell short of besting a bloated, double-digit betting line. In spite of their recent sputters, Atlanta has been the best bet in the league against the spread, covering more than 69% of their 52 games this year.
Our work favors Atlanta by double-digits tonight. The sim component makes the Hawks 11-16 point favorites, while our power-rankings factor sees Atlanta by an 18-point margin.
We acknowledge that Minnesota has gained some momentum of late, which, research suggests, increases their chances of winning tonight. For instance, Arkle and Martinez, (2011) find that higher levels of success over an NBA teams' previous five games coincide with higher chances of success during the next out. However, coming off a flawless 17-0 January, Atlanta also has momentum. Despite kicking off a three-game road stand with an 'L' at Memphis last night, the Hawks, like the Wolves, are 3-2 straight up over their last five contests.
Bottom line: We think the betting line over-compensates for the Wolves progress since Ricky Rubio has returned. As such, we see value backing the road favorite tonight, and look for Atlanta to dominate the lessor Minnesota team.