NBA: Underdog Atlanta Uprising (8:00 PM ET, TNT)

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NBA: Underdog Atlanta Uprising (8:00 PM ET, TNT)


2008-04-28

A series that was assumed to be nothing more than a four-game formality was given life on Saturday night when the Hawks upset the heavily favored Celtics in Game 3 of their first round NBA playoff series. With Game 4 set for Monday, over 90% of early Sportsbook bettors expect a return to normalcy, backing Boston as a 9-point favorite.

If a new burgeoning business wants to crack into the fast food hamburger field, you don't set your sites on beating Hungry Howie's on the other side of town; you focus on the Golden Arches. The chances of ever beating Ray Kroc's creation are slim at best, but who thought people would eat fast food 50 years ago.

For the Atlanta Hawks, the similarities are present. After drifting into the NBA abyss with countless bad draft choices, ill-suited coaching choices and enough bad front office mistakes you would have thought an airline executive was running the team, Atlanta made the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Their first foray only happens to be against the most storied franchise in NBA history, which was built to be the best in the league this season. The hungry Hawks came into the series with gums flapping against a Celtics team they had played three times this season, never coming within single digits. Not being able to cover spreads as high as 15.5-points in two playoffs contests in Beantown did not discourage Atlanta, who broke through in Game Three to defeat Boston and extend a series nearly everyone assumed would be four games.

Hawks forward Josh Smith ignored the fact his team finished 29 games behind Boston during the regular season, instead put together his own ESPN dunk highlight reel in first Atlanta playoff win since 1999. Al Horford was dominant with 17 points and 14 boards and jumped into Paul Pierce's face to let him know about it. "It's an emotional game. It's something that kind of just happens in the moment," Horford said Sunday. "It's the first time I've done it. It was spontaneous." It's easy to ignore the fact Atlanta is 19-33 ATS after playing three consecutive games as an underdog. The Hawks helped bettors make money again, being the last of the 0-2 teams to win and cover, bringing this year's first round record to 4-2 ATS and 35-20-1 (63.6 percent) ATS the last 11 seasons in this exact situation.

The Sunday film session and practice was longer than expected for Boston, who is still 21-6 against the spread in last 27 trips to the gym. Asked about his team's performance in Game Three, coach Doc Rivers tone was sarcastic, "We had an ice cream social," Rivers joked. "That's how we played." Rivers was able to reminisce; having played for the Hawks the last time anyone cared about Atlanta. "It was back like the old days, when Dominique (Wilkins) played," Rivers said of his 1980's days playing there. "I was there, too, sitting on the bench watching him." The Celtics are 24-9 ATS in road games after one or more consecutive losses.

Oddsmakers, like those at Sportsbook.com are not reading too much into Atlanta's upset, leaving Boston as 9-point road favorites with total at 189.5. The Celtics are 20-11 ATS as road favorites with season and 12-4 ATS on the road when the total is between 180 and 189.5 points.

The NBA's youngest team is clueless at 2-7 ATS off a victory and could give a hoot Boston has covered the last seven times they have had exactly one day between games. What matters to them is making their own history and who knows, who would have though fast food Mexican would catch on like Taco Bell.

Game time is set for 8 Eastern on TNT.

StatFox Power Line- Boston by 7



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