Atlanta at Cleveland
Time: 6:30 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: CLE -10
Odds c/o Bet Online
The Cleveland Cavaliers have surged ahead to take a 1.5 game lead over the No. 2 seeded Boston Celtics with just four games remaining in its schedule.
Cleveland has won its past four, and will host the struggling Atlanta Hawks as 10-point favorites at 6:30 PM (CT) on NBA TV.
The Cavaliers, truth be told, may need the homecourt advantage it has tried so desperately to secure. The Cavs are just 20-19 on the road this season, while the team has posted a much more impressive 31-8 mark at home. Cleveland closes its season with games against the Atlanta Hawks (Twice), Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors.
All those clubs are in the postseason, but it is a fortunate thing to face ATL twice, considering the Hawks have been virtually falling apart at this juncture of the season when it matters the most. And then there is also the fact that LeBron James has turned off cruise control and begun to really play his best basketball, which is really no surprise whatsoever as the Cavs fine-tune their approach for the 2017 playoffs.
Over the past 10 games, James has averaged 28 points, eight assists and nine rebounds per game. He has also had two triple-doubles in his past three games, including a 41 point, 11 assist, 14 rebound effort against the Indiana Pacers (though the game went to double overtime, as the Cavaliers won 135-130).
James has quietly turned in one of his most impressive seasons, as overshadowed as it was by the dominant play of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. James is averaging 8.7 assists per game this season, and his facilitation has revitalized Kevin Love into something close to the force he once was as a Minnesota Timberwolf. Love missed 21 games this season, but while on the court he has been very good: Love has posted a PER of 21.8 while averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. Better still, is the fact Love has been launching triples— 6.5 per game at a 38 percent clip.
Cleveland is a good three-point shooting team, as all the elite teams are in this era. The Cavs average 13 made triples per game while shooting 38.7 percent as a team. Having a host of sharpshooters who are not good for much else bolsters that: J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and Kyle Korver are basically hired guns to spread the floor for James, Love and Kyrie Irving. Irving, too, has been sensational this season in averaging a career high 25 points per game, and he already showed last NBA Finals that he possesses the clutch gene. Cleveland is the heavy favorites to again win the Eastern Conference, and turning to tonight, it probably will have little trouble disposing of a struggling Hawks team that is just limping into the postseason.
Atlanta won 123-116 over the Boston Celtics last outing, rather surprisingly, considering that ATL has dropped nine of its past 12 games, including a seven-game losing streak that saw the Hawks fall to teams like Brooklyn and Charlotte. Atlanta simply does not look like a playoff team, notwithstanding that several Hawks are playing great ball at the moment. Among those are Tim Hardaway Jr and Paul Millsap—both stood out in the victory over the C’s.
Millsap is averaging 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this year, and Hardaway has become a major force at the 2-guard position. As a strong bodied guard, Hardaway has bullied his way to 14 points per game in just 27 minutes a night, and his future is sparkling bright.
That said, outside of Hardaway, the Hawks are not loaded with prospects. Malcolm Delaney and Taurean Prince have both looked good and could eventually be nice players, but the Hawks lack any major blue chips that could get this franchise out of the limbo it seems to always find itself in. Atlanta won 60 games two seasons ago, but has not been able to recapture the brilliant team play that lead to that anomalous success.