NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game Four: Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers

2015 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference Finals Game #4
#1 Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavaliers Lead Best of Seven Series 3-0
Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland, Ohio
Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 8:35 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Cleveland -8
Current Line: Cleveland -7 1/2 (-105)
Opening Total: 193 1/2
Current Total: 193 1/2
Opening Money Line: Cavaliers -400 / Hawks +325
Current Money Line: Cavaliers -340 / Hawks +280

The Hawks look to stay alive in the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks look to stay alive in the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Monday night, the Golden State Warriors were unable to complete the sweep against the Houston Rockets as the Rockets stayed alive with a 128-115 win. Now the Cleveland Cavaliers get their chance to complete the sweep in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. The biggest difference is the Cavaliers are at home Tuesday night while the Warriors were on the road last night.

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.

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, after trailing 2-1 in the series. The Cavaliers return to the conference finals for the first time since the 2009 season.

Cleveland won the first two games in Atlanta, 97-89 in game one and 94-82 in game two. Sunday night, Cleveland won in overtime 114-111.

Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving missed his second straight game with a sore knee. The Cavaliers seemed a little out of sorts, especially LeBron James, who missed his first 10 shots from the field. He didn’t score until he hit a free throw in the second quarter. The Hawks led by as many as 9 in the first quarter, but the Cavs would cut the lead to three by the end of the quarter. Atlanta took an 8 point lead with just over 5 minutes left in the second, but Cleveland went on a 12-2 run to take a two point lead. With less than a minute left in the second, Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova rolled into Atlanta center Al Horford’s leg. As Horford was going down to the ground, he elbowed Dellavedova in the head. Dellavedova was given a technical foul, but Horford was given a flagrant foul two and ejected. Atlanta would lead by one at halftime. Horford had scored 14 points before the ejection.

In the third, Cleveland led by as many as 8 points, but would take a 5 point lead into the fourth. James had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the quarter.  The Cavaliers would take a 10 point lead in the fourth despite LeBron favoring his right leg due to cramps and a foot injury. Atlanta would rally to take a 100-97 lead with less than 4 minutes left. Atlanta would lead 104-100 with 1:28 left. Cleveland would tie it up with 18 seconds left when Iman Shumpert made one of two free throws. Jeff Teague missed a three at the buzzer for Atlanta and the game went into overtime.

Atlanta took a 111-109 lead with 55 seconds left in overtime. LeBron hit a three with 36 seconds left to give Cleveland the lead. Atlanta missed a layup, and LeBron hit a shot from six feet to give the Cavs a three point lead with 12 seconds. Shelvin Mack missed two three pointers including one at the buzzer as the Cavaliers held on for the three point win. James collapsed to the floor in exhaustion and excitement.

Despite the slow start and the injuries, James finished with 37 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists and 3 assists. Dellavedova had 17 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, starting in place of Irving. J.R. Smith had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks off the bench. Iman Shumpert had 15 points and 7 rebounds. Tristan Thompson had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. For the third straight game, Cleveland dominated the boards with 56 rebounds to 42 for Atlanta.

Teague had 30 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Paul Millsap had 22 points and 9 rebounds. Kent Bazemore had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Mack had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. DeMarre Carroll had 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

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Atlanta is coached by Mike Budenholzer, who was named NBA coach of the year. The Hawks are 56-40-2 this season and the total is 48-51. Atlanta was a 8.5 point underdog in game three and the total was 190.5. Cleveland  is coached by David Blatt. Cleveland is 46-49 ATS and the total is 38-56-1.

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 series and has been playing with his hand taped. He will not face additional discipline after Sunday’s incident.  Kyle Korver averages 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Korver is out for the rest of the season with a sprained ankle.  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. Kyrie Irving averages 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is questionable again for game four.  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.

Atlanta is 4-1 ATS after a straight up loss and in road games, 5-2 in Tuesday games, 7-3 after allowing 100 points or more, 14-6-1 against teams with winning home records, 1-4 against Central teams, and 0-4 after a cover. The underdog had covered the last 4 games in this series. The Hawks are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games in Cleveland.

Cleveland is 5-2 ATS after failing to cover, 12-5 after allowing 100 points or more, 3-7 after scoring 100 points or more, 4-10 on one day rest, 1-4 at home and against teams with winning home records. The over is 12-5 in this series recently including 4-0 in Cleveland in this series.

LeBron James can become the first player to make five straight NBA Finals since the Bill Russell era Celtics. Magic Johnson’s Lakers and Larry Bird’s Celtics each made four in a row. LeBron is playing at an extremely high level even by his illustrious standards. It won’t be easy but I think Lebron makes sure this series doesn’t go back to Atlanta, even Irving doesn’t play.

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