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TheSpread NBA Picks and Predictions 1/20

TheSpread NBA Picks and Predictions 1/20

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their NBA picks and predictions for Tuesday, January 20.

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Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls, 8:35PM ET

Despite playing without two starters, the Atlanta Hawks look like they're pulling out of a new year swoon. To help complete that turnaround, they'll need better play on the road.

Atlanta (24-16) seeks its second win in its last six away from home Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls (18-24).

The Hawks have dropped seven of their last eight at the United Center, but the lone victory in that stretch came Nov. 11 with a 113-108 win.

After starting 1-5 in 2009, the Hawks enter Tuesday's game having won two of their last three following Monday's 87-84 home victory over Toronto. Joe Johnson continued his strong play of late, scoring 28 points, including key a jumper with 12.5 seconds left.

Atlanta's leading scorer - 22.2 points per game - has averaged 24.7 points over his last three games to move into the NBA's top 10 in scoring. In the Hawks' previous meeting with the Bulls on Dec. 27, Johnson had a career-high 41 points in a 129-117 home victory.

Atlanta played short-handed Monday as Al Horford missed his fifth straight game due to a bone bruise in his right knee, and Marvin Williams sat out after suffering a concussion in Friday's 119-114 loss at Golden State.

After Monday's win, Hawks coach Mike Woodson said he didn't know when Horford or Williams would play again.

Horford had season highs of 27 points and 17 rebounds in the last trip to Chicago and is the team's top rebounder - 8.7 per game. Williams has averaged 13.2 points and 6.1 rebounds this season.

NBA Free Pick: Chicago  – Best Line: -3.5 Sports Interaction

Minnesota Timberwolves at Utah Jazz, 9:05PM ET

Considering the Utah Jazz have won more than 80 percent of their home games the last three seasons, it's not surprising that coach Jerry Sloan's team has another six-game winning streak in Salt Lake City.

What is unexpected is that their next opponent has won four straight on the road.

The Minnesota Timberwolves will look to continue their impressive recent run when they visit Utah on Tuesday, as they also try to end a five-game losing streak at EnergySolutions Arena.

While the Jazz (24-17) have battled inconsistency on the road this season, they've been as steady as ever at home, with their 16-4 mark in Salt Lake City ranking as the second-best home record in the Western Conference.

Including blowout victories over New Orleans and Detroit, they've outscored opponents by an average of 13.5 points while winning their last six home games, moving to 84-18 at home since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.

Minnesota (13-26) visits Utah with a surprising amount of momentum. Since their 13-game losing streak just before Christmas, the Timberwolves have gone 9-3, scoring 100 or more points eight times over that span as a once-struggling offense has begun to click.

They won with defense on Monday, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 94-86 to win their fourth straight road game for the first time since a five-game run in December, 2005. They had been 3-13 on the road before their current streak.

NBA Free Pick: Utah – Best Line: -9.5 Sports Interaction

Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs, 8:35PM ET

The San Antonio Spurs have been inconsistent on defense lately, causing more than a few headaches for coach Gregg Popovich.

Having to defend Danny Granger produces headaches for many opposing coaches.

Coming off two stellar defensive efforts on the road, the Spurs will return home Tuesday to face the Indiana Pacers and Granger, who's averaging more than 30 points per game over the last month.

San Antonio (27-13) has been a fixture atop the NBA's defensive charts over the past decade, finishing among the league's top three teams in fewest points allowed each season since 1996-97.

The Spurs are allowing 94.0 points per game midway through this season, still among the top 10 in the league but by far their worst average since they gave up 98.3 ppg 12 seasons ago - the year before Tim Duncan's arrival.

They'd allowed an average of 108.3 points in losing two of their first three games last week, which included a 109-87 defeat at Philadelphia on Friday that left Popovich fuming.

"We're supposed to be a pretty good defensive team and it hasn't looked like it for a while," Popovich said after the opener of San Antonio's three-game road trip. "We're not the team we've been in the past couple years on the defensive end. It's really troubling."

The Spurs played better defensively on Saturday in Chicago, beating the Bulls 92-87, then really stepped up Monday when the offense wasn't clicking. San Antonio limited Charlotte to 36.3 percent shooting and held the Bobcats to 16 points in the fourth quarter, kick-starting a late rally to win 86-84.

NBA Free Pick: San Antonio – Best Line: -7.5 Sports Interaction

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