NBA Eastern Conference Finals Betting Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks

2015 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference Finals

#1 Atlanta Hawks vs #2 Cleveland Cavaliers
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Series Price: Cleveland -215 / Atlanta +178
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook

Game #1 Philips Arena – Atlanta, Georgia
Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 8:35 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Atlanta -1
Current Line: Atlanta pick
Opening Total: 198
Current Total: 198 1/2
Opening Money Line: Hawks -120 / Cavaliers +100
Current Money Line: Hawks -110 / Cavaliers -110

The health of Kyrie Irving could be an X-factor in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The health of Kyrie Irving could be an X-factor in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Both the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers were down 2-1 in their respective Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Both teams then won 3 straight games to advance to the Conference Finals. This is the second ever playoff meeting between the Hawks and Cavaliers. Cleveland swept Atlanta in the second round of the 2009 playoffs. The winner between the Hawks and Cavaliers will face either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.

Atlanta went 60-22 in the regular season and won the Southeast Division title by 14 games over the Washington Wizards. It was the best record in franchise history. Atlanta beat the #8 seed Brooklyn Nets in a tougher than expected six games in the first round. The Hawks rallied from a 2-1 deficit against the #5 seed Wizards in the second round to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1970. Atlanta won the clinching game six Friday night 94-91 in Washington.

Cleveland went 53-29 and won the Central Division by 3 games over the Chicago Bulls. The Cavaliers swept the #7 seed Boston Celtics in the first round, and beat the #3 seed Bulls in six games in the conference semifinals. Cleveland won game six 94-73 in Chicago last Thursday. The Cavaliers return to the conference finals for the first time since that 2009 season.

Cleveland won the first meeting against Atlanta 127-94 at home in mid-November. The Hawks then won the other three meetings. Atlanta won 127-98 in Cleveland December 17, and at home 109-101 December 30 and 106-97 March 6.

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Atlanta is coached by Mike Budenholzer, who was named NBA coach of the year. The Hawks are 55-38-2 this season and the total is 47-49. Atlanta was a 2.5 point favorite in game six against Washington and the total was 197.

Cleveland  is coached by David Blatt. Cleveland is 44-48 ATS and the total is 37-54-1. The Cavaliers were 2.5 point favorites against Chicago in game six and the total was 192.5.

Atlanta is outscoring teams 100-96 in the playoffs. Atlanta is shooting 43.4% from the field and 34.3% from 3 point range. Atlanta is shooting  78.7% from the free throw line. Opponents are shooting 42.5% from the field and 36.4% from 3 point range. Atlanta averages 45.2 rebounds and opponents average 45.5 per game. Atlanta averages 25.4 assists, 13.8 turnovers, 9.2 steals and 5.6 blocks per game. Opponents average 21.3 assists, 14.4 turnovers, 7.5 steals and 3.9 blocks per game.

In the playoffs, forward DeMarre Carroll averages 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Paul Millsap averages 15.7 points, 9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.  Jeff Teague averages 15.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Al Horford averages 15.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game. Horford suffered a dislocated pinky in game one of the Brooklyn and has been playing with his hand taped but is probable. Kyle Korver averages 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He struggled against the Wizards.  Dennis Schroder averages 10.1 points and 4.3 assists. Thabo Sefolosha is out for the season with a broken leg.

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Cleveland is outscoring teams 100-93 in the playoffs. The Cavaliers are shooting 43.2% from the field and 34.2% from 3 point range. Cleveland makes 79.8% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 40.8% from the field and 30.5% from 3 point range. Cleveland averages 44.9 rebounds per game and opponents averages 40.8 per game. The Cavaliers average 18.1 assists, 12.1 turnovers, 6.3 steals and 7.6 blocks per game. Opponents average 18.9 assists, 11.7 turnovers, 6.1 steals and 5.2 blocks per game.

The Cavaliers are banged up and certainly aren’t at full strength. LeBron James is averaging 26.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks per game in the playoffs. He is probable with a back injury. Kyrie Irving averages 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He has been battling knee tendonitis and their was some doubt whether he would be available for game one. He is officially listed as probable but he said he will start. Kevin Love is out for the playoffs after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the first round against the Celtics. J.R. Smith averages 11.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. Iman Shumpert averages 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1 block per game. Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and James Jones will also get minutes in the rotation. Anderson Varejao is out for the season with a torn Achilles.

Cleveland is 4-1 ATS after allowing less than 75 points, 7-2 in Wednesday games, 2-6 against teams with winning records, 1-5 in Conference Finals games, 1-6 after a cover, and 0-5 after a straight up win by 10 or more points. The over is 6-1 overall in this series and 6-2 in Atlanta between the teams.

Atlanta is 10-2 ATS against teams with winning road records, 13-3 against Central Division teams, 25-11-1 against teams with winning records, 2-5 at home, 2-5-1 after a straight up win and 1-3-1 after a cover. The home team is 6-1 ATS in this series recently. The Hawks have covered 4 of the last 5 games overall against the Cavaliers, and the last 4 in Atlanta in the series.

Despite finishing seven games better and winning 3 of the 4 regular season meetings, the Atlanta Hawks are a decided underdog in this series. This is mainly because one LeBron James in on the other side of the court. Cleveland will have a size advantage but the small Hawks rely on their speed against bigger teams. I still think Cleveland wins this series but I would feel a lot better with a healthy Irving. I think the Cavaliers win the series in seven games, as opposed to five or six if the Cavs were at full strength with a healthy Love and Irving.

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