The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a 4 game sweep against the tough, gritty, Detroit Pistons. The Atlanta Hawks got by the young, scrappy Boston Celtics in 6 games. Last year, in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs swept the Hawks and went on to play the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Championship.
The Cavaliers are a totally different team than they were last year. Head coach David Blatt has been fired and Tyronn Lue seems to have transitioned this team from a methodical isolation offense to ball movement and up tempo. The Cavs are averaging 103.5 points per game in the post-season and are 2nd in three point field goal percentage (41.3). For the first time since the 2011 NBA Finals, LeBron James is not the leading scorer on his team (in a series) Kyrie Irving has been rejuvenated in the playoffs. Irving is averaging 27.5 points per game and is shooting 47% from behind the arc. James is averaging 22.8 points, 9 rebounds and 6. 8 assists per game. Kevin Love continues to be the best 3rd option in all of basketball. Love is playing like he did in Minnesota. He is spreading the floor by shooting the three, posting up and rebounding. He is averaging 18.8 points and 12 rebounds per game. The Cavs are the deepest team in the NBA. Matthew Dellavedova, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and Timofey Mozgov, can all contribute in a big way on any given night.
That Atlanta Hawks are the definition of a balanced team on offense. They have 8 players who are averaging over 9 points per game. The problem here is they don’t have a guy they can go to consistently at the end of a game. They remind me of the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL, they had a very good regular season but they don’t have a legitimate super star. Jeff Teague is leading the team averaging 16.5 points per game and Paul Milsap is averaging 16.3 points per game. The Hawks have the same philosophy as the San Antonio Spurs, pass up a good shot for a great shot. They play very unselfish and don’t care who gets the credit or who takes the shots.
In order for the Hawks to win this series they will have to outscore the Cavs. I don’t see that happening. Right now, Cleveland is looking like the team we all thought they would when LeBron James wrote the “Coming Home” letter. Hawks SM Kyle Korver will continue to struggle in the playoffs because he won’t get any room to get his shot off. If he is not making shots and spreading the floor, he is not much of a factor. The Hawks play hard but they just don’t have the weapons to compete with the high flying Cavaliers.
I like the Cavs to sweep this series. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hawks win Game 3… but other than that they have no chance. The Cavs are too deep, too skilled and too motivated right now. They are playing with a chip on their shoulder reminiscent of the way the Kansas City Royals did after they lost to the San Fransciso Giants in the World Series. The Cavs are focused, determined and will not take any game for granted.
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