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Date: Wednesday, May 21st 2015
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is the series everyone expected out of the East and it should be one of the best series of the 2015 NBA playoffs – even when you consider how banged up the Cavaliers are at this point.
Atlanta won the season series 3-1 and they were a perfect 2-0 at home, despite their normal starting line-up not all playing together in any of the H2H games against Cleveland except for the final game.
These two teams have put up similar numbers thus far in the playoffs.
Cleveland are averaging 99.6 PPG, 44.9 RPG, 18.1 APG, 6.3 SPG and 7.6 BPG, while Atlanta are averaging 99.8 PPG, 45.2 RPG, 25.4 APG, 9.2 SPG and 5.6 SPG in the NBA playoffs this year.
Lebron James has had to carry a huge load due to the fact that Kevin Love is out and Kyrie Irving is playing banged up. James is averaging 26.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 7.9 APG, 1.9 SPG and 1.4 BPG in 41.7 MPG.
James has flirted with a triple-double in basically every playoff game the Cavs have played.
Irving may be banged up, but he’s still 2nd on the team with 19.8 PPG in the playoffs. Iman Shumpert (10.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG) and J.R. Smith (11.3 PPG) are both averaging in the double-digits.
However, can a depleted Cavaliers team keep up with the depth of the Hawks?
Atlanta are the most unselfish team in the NBA. They’ve assisted on 67.6% of their FG’s, which is a higher mark than anyone else in the playoffs. The Hawks don’t rely on one superstar.
DeMarre Carroll leads the Hawks in points scored in the playoffs (17.1 PPG), but Paul Millsap (15.7 PPG), Al Horford (15.6 PPG) and Jeff Teague (15.3 PPG) are all averaging over 15 PPG too.
Horford (9.9 RPG) and Millsap (9.0 RPG) are both double-double threats every time they step on the court. The only starter who has been struggling is Kyle Korver, as his 3-point shot has been off.
Korver is the best 3-point shooter in the NBA, but he’s only averaging 35% in the playoffs.
The Hawks don’t have a strong bench, but Dennis Schroder (10.1 PPG and 4.3 APG) has been electric off the bench. At times – the Hawks are even playing Teague and Schroder together.
The Hawks are a -1 point favorite at TopBet in the series opener tonight in Atlanta.
I’ll be on the Hawks to win game 1 of the series. Atlanta have been great at home all season and the Cavaliers have had some problems on the road in the playoffs, albeit nothing major.
The Cavs are averaging 103.2 PPG at home, but only 96.0 PPG on the road.
Atlanta knows they have to come out strong in game, as they can’t afford to allow the Cavs to build up confidence and steal home advantage in the opening game of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
Irving is expected to play in the opener, but he has been very limited in practice.
James is going to smothered by Carroll in this series and Carroll is a strong defender. The Hawks need him to do a great job on defense, but they can’t afford his offensive production to slip too much.
He has been the best player throughout much of the playoffs for Atlanta on offense.