Clippers vs. Hawks NBA Preview

Clippers vs. Hawks NBA Preview
Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks pushes forward after stealing the ball . Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

The L.A. Clippers have won seven in a row. Can they beat the Atlanta Hawks and the NBA odds this Tuesday without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Atlanta Hawks

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 – 07:30 PM EST at State Farm Arena 

The Los Angeles Clippers (13-4 SU, 10-7 ATS) are loaded for bear. Everyone threw them shade after last year’s come-from-ahead loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, but that was Year One of their rebuild around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. These superteams usually need two years to find their footing; now that the Clippers have Serge Ibaka and Nic Batum to balance things out, they’ve got the best offense in the NBA through the first month of the 2020-21 campaign. They’ve also won seven straight at 4-3 ATS. Not bad. The Atlanta Hawks (8-8 SU and ATS) have also made big strides in their rebuild, although they’ve got some more work to do before they’ll be title contenders. Unfortunately, they might not have their star player, Trae Young, for Tuesday’s matchup with the visiting Clippers – who definitely won’t have the aforementioned George in uniform. The NBA odds are understandably on hold at press time, but with so many important players in question, the Under seems like a good place-holder pick until more information is available.

Missing In Action

Even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, it was generally a good idea to wait until the morning shoot-around to see who’s available before making your NBA picks. Now it’s even more important – we’ve just found out as I write this that George (plus-0.9 VORP) and Leonard (plus-1.2 VORP) will both miss the next week of games under the league’s health and safety protocols. Not ideal. Patrick Beverley (plus-0.2 VORP) is also out Tuesday with a sore right knee, and Marcus Morris (minus-0.1 VORP) reportedly has a non-COVID illness of some sort but is expected to play. For the Hawks, Young (plus-0.7 VORP) missed his first game of the season last Sunday with a sore back, while Clint Capela (plus-0.5 VORP) sat out with a sore right hand. Both are listed as day-to-day for Tuesday’s matchup, although Young appears more likely to play; these are Atlanta’s best performers thus far, and they play at key positions, so even the status of Leonard and George now confirmed, you can see why the NBA lines are on hold.

You can also see why there’s no point in picking a winner against the spread (or on the moneyline) just yet. In theory, the Clippers may be worth a shot – the betting public will probably over-react to the absence of their dynamic duo – but the possible absences of Young and Capela could negate that. The Under should have some legs, though. Even if Young ends up playing, his offensive impact, which is significant (27.3 points, 9.4 assists per 36 minutes), should be compromised at least somewhat by his tender back. And if Young doesn’t play at all, taking away his sub-standard defense makes the Under look even better.

NBA Pick: Under (odds pending)