Friday night’s NBA betting card pits a pair of division leaders looking to create more separation over last season’s winners as we’ve reached the halfway point of the 2021-22 season.
The Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks were basically a pick’ em back in August for the Southeast Division following last season’s role reversal. Miami couldn’t build off a surprise NBA Finals appearance due to injuries and wound up a game behind the Hawks. The Hawks then went out and upset their way into the Eastern Conference finals, eliminating the Knicks and 76ers before losing to the eventual champion Bucks.
Part of Miami’s plan to return to prominence included taking back the Southeast, and despite injuries that have kept All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo out of the lineup, the Heat enjoy a healthy 8.5-game lead heading into Friday’s home game against the Hawks.
Atlanta hits the midway point in its season a disappointing 17-23, having just made a splash by dealing talented young wing Cam Reddish to New York in a move that nets them a future first-round pick and inconsistent former lottery pick Kevin Knox.
Clint Capela has struggled, Nate McMillan’s attention to detail on defense hasn’t delivered positive results, and the Hawks find themselves on the outside looking in for even the play-in round, ranking fourth in the Southeast behind Miami and improved teams in Charlotte and Washington.
With Capela out due to a left ankle sprain, the Hawks will rely on John Collins and second-year center Onyeka Okongwu to hold down the paint against the Heat, who are still without Adebayo but have seen Omer Yurtseven emerge as a dominant presence around the rim, while welcoming back Dewayne Dedmon.
This is a game that Trae Young will almost certainly have to take over, but the Heat are well known for selling out coverages and forcing others to beat them, so this is a great spot to take advantage of a Bogdan Bogdanovic prop, since Young’s backcourt mate should have plenty of good looks. His points total at DraftKings is set at 14.5 despite Bogdanovic scoring at least 15 points in four straight games and firing up 11 3-point shots in Atlanta’s 115-91 loss to the Heat on Wednesday. Expect Friday’s rematch to be much tighter and look for the Serbian guard to surpass his points total in helping the Hawks hang around.
As loyal Gaming Today readers know, we were all over the Grizzlies in this space as a +350 choice at FanDuel to win the Southwest Division over the heavily favored Mavericks. Although Dallas is coming around and has won seven of its last 10 games, it has made up no ground on surging Memphis, which owns an 11-game win streak and a 6.5-game edge on the Mavs entering Friday night’s late tip-off at FedEx Forum.
The Grizzlies are just 2-point favorites since they’re playing for the third time in four nights after posting wins over the Warriors and Timberwolves in tight contests where they made winning plays down the stretch. Dallas is playing for just the second time this week and comes off a disappointing nationally televised 108-85 loss at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks on Wednesday.
Kristaps Porzingis remains out due to health and safety protocols and is hoping for clearance, while Memphis center Steven Adams is looking to return from a non-COVID illness that has sidelined him the past few games. In his absence, Jaren Jackson Jr. has slid to the center spot and excelled, while reserves Brandon Clarke and John Konchar have shined given more playing time.
It goes to show that Memphis is much more than just Ja Morant, who is the current Most Improved Player favorite (-140, FanDuel) and has moved into the MVP conversation. Despite how busy they’ve been, there’s no reason to fade the surging Grizzlies when they’re only laying a bucket against Dallas.
The fact the Grizzlies haven’t had to travel and own a 16-8 mark at home must be taken into account. Ride the hot hand and back Memphis.