NBA tip-off: 4 Wednesday winners to fill your midweek coupon
Two playoff hopefuls from the Eastern Conference head our top picks for a busy night of basketball...
Atlanta Hawks to beat Orlando Magic -
Atlanta centre Dwight Howard should enjoy a winning return to Orlando to face his former team on Wednesday night.
The Hawks have won three in a row, including an impressive overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
They haven’t played since that game, so they should be rested against the Magic, who visited the New York Knicks on Monday.
It also helps that Atlanta are the superior team on both ends of the court.
They rank sixth in defensive rating to the Magic’s 17th, and 23rd in offensive rating to Orlando’s 26th.
Charlotte Hornets to beat Oklahoma City Thunder -
In a match-up of likely playoff teams from the Eastern and Western Conference, the Hornets’ superior defence should earn them the win over Oklahoma City.
They are seventh in the NBA in defensive rating, while also ranking higher than the Thunder offensively.
Charlotte have been particularly good at home this season. They have won 11 of their 18 games at Spectrum Centre, and five of their last six.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is one of the most difficult players to defend in the league, but he will struggle to score around the rim against the Hornets.
They have allowed the third-lowest field-goal percentage from inside three feet of any team.
Milwaukee Bucks to beat New York Knicks -
After a middling start to the season, things are again looking bleak for the Knicks.
They have lost five consecutive games, conceding over 100 points in each at an average of 113.8 per game.
That run is unlikely to end against the Bucks, who have won three of their last four and have climbed to sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee have been excellent offensively this season, ranking ninth in points per 100 possessions.
And on the other end of the court they are also much better than the Knicks, who have the league’s fifth-worst defensive rating.
Memphis Grizzlies to beat Los Angeles Clippers -
The Clippers have been one of the league’s better teams this season, but considering their recent injury problems it is difficult to see them winning this game.
Blake Griffin remains out after knee surgery, while Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan will be playing through injuries of their own on Wednesday night.
The Clippers ended their six-game losing streak with a victory on Monday night, but that was against the last-placed Phoenix Suns.
The Grizzlies – currently seventh in the Western Conference – will provide a much tougher challenge.
They have the NBA’s second-best defensive rating, and have scored over 100 points in each of their last six games.