Two southeastern foes with identical records mee tonight as the Orlando Magic host the Atlanta Hawks. Orlando had opened as the favorite, but as they will now be with out Howard, the Hawks have become the new betting favorite.

Last year’s playoff matchup could happen once again this season, (more of a long shot this year) as we get another Hawks versus Magic game tonight, from Orlando. The NBA betting spread has opened in favor of the Hawks by -1 ½. The main reason why the NBA odds makers have done so, is because the Magic will be without their All Star center, Dwight Howard.

Dwight Howard has missed five of the Magic’s last seven games, and will be out tonight. He was experiencing discomfort in his back during Thursday’s practice, and will seek a second opinion on his ailing back. Can the Magic still come up with a win or cover the spread without their best player? Find out who I am backing with my NBA picks tonight.

Familiar foes

Orlando MagicThese two teams are very introduced to one another over the last few seasons. They are in the same division, but they also had a first round matchup in the playoffs last season, which the Hawks dominated. This will be the third time they play this season, and so far, the Hawks have won and covered in both games.

In their last ten games against one another, (including last season’s playoffs) the Hawks are 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS. During a 6 game stretch last season including the post season and regular season, the Hawks won five of the games and covered in all five.

Without Howard tonight for the Magic, Josh Smith should have one of his patented games down low. The Magic will have no answer for him, but the same could be said about his counterpart Ryan Anderson. Anderson is a tough matchup for most power forwards, and I think that Smith could have some trouble. Keep an eye on that matchup throughout the game.

Who is hungrier?

When healthy, both of these teams have some good talent. The Hawks have been without their center Al Horford for most of this season, and although he could be back for the playoffs, he will not have much of an impact. The problem with these teams is that they never live up to expectations.

Atlanta HawksBoth of these teams have the same record at 34-24. The Hawks own the tiebreaker against the Magic, so as the standings sit now, the Hawks are 5th and the Magic 6th. Assuming the Celtics hang onto the Atlantic division and the 4th seed, these two won’t meet up in the playoffs. However, they are both similarly built, and it should still be a great matchup this evening.

The Sharp Pick

With both teams without their starting centers, this game will be focused solely on the perimeter shooting of both squads. Obviously the Magic are a better three point shooting team, but if they are not hitting their shots, without Howard, they could score only 65 points tonight. It has happened before.

The Hawks are a better-rounded team, and if they can defend the three-point line, they should come away with the cover. One thing that scares me a bit is that the public is all over the Hawks at almost 79%. However, I think this one is going to side with the Hawks. The Hawks are 10-3 against their division this season, and 5-1 against them on the road. The Hawks are still a solid defensive team, so to play it safe; I’m going with Atlanta on the moneyline.

My Pick: Hawks ML -115