John Collins and the Atlanta Hawks play host to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, and tipoff from State Farm Arena is at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Lakers are just two games behind the Kings for the No. 8 seed in the West, and James will do his best to push them back into playoff contention. It has been 14 years since he missed the playoffs, so it’s hard to envision him not making a late-season surge. If that is going to happen, the Lakers need to start winning games like this. L.A. is listed as a five-point favorite, while the over-under for total points is 236.5 in the latest Lakers vs Hawks odds. Before you make any Lakers vs. Hawks picks and NBA predictions, you’ll want to see what SportsLine’s advanced computer model has to say.
The model, which simulates every game 10,000 times, is crushing its NBA picks this season. It entered Week 18 of the 2018-19 NBA season with a sterling 212-158 record on all top-rated picks, returning more than $4,000 to anybody following them. And it has been particularly red-hot on its A-rated NBA picks against the spread, entering Week 18 on a blistering 41-26 run. Anybody following it is way up.
Now it has locked in on Lakers vs. Hawks. We can tell you it’s leaning over, and it also has locked in a confident against-the-spread pick that hits in over 50 percent of simulations. You can only see that one at SportsLine.
The model is well aware of how poorly Atlanta has defended this season. The Hawks rank 28th in defensive efficiency, while the Lakers are 7-3 when facing teams with a defensive efficiency of 110 or worse. In games that James has played against such defenses this season, the Lakers are 5-1.
James has played three games since returning from a lengthy absence with a groin injury and is averaging 21 points and a triple-double in those games. Coach Luke Walton went as far as to play James 38 minutes in a big road victory against Boston last week, so it’s clear that James won’t be limited if the Lakers are in a position to win this game.
But just because L.A. is making a late-season playoff push doesn’t mean it will cover the Lakers vs. Hawks spread.
The model is also well aware that L.A.’s defense has been even worse than Atlanta’s lately. The Lakers have an atrocious 121.5 defensive rating over their past 10 games, during which their opponents have averaged 125 points and outscored them by 11.5 points. Even since James’ return, the Lakers are allowing 135.7 points and an insane effective field goal percentage of 63.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has seen excellent production from their young players. Trae Young has upped his scoring average to 22 points over his past nine games, during which he has also handed out an average of eight assists. John Collins has reached his career high in points (35) twice over the past 10 games and is not listed on the team’s injury report for Tuesday after dealing with a knee injury.
Rookie shooting guard Kevin Huerter also is enjoying one of his strongest runs of the season, averaging 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists in six games over the past 10 days, while also shooting lights out (55 percent) from beyond the arc.