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

2015 NBA Playoffs
Eastern Conference Finals Game #3
#1 Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavaliers Lead Best of Seven Series 2-0
Quicken Loans Arena – Cleveland, Ohio
Sunday, May 24, 2015, 8:35 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Cleveland -8
Current Line: Cleveland -9
Opening Total: 190
Current Total: 190 1/2
Opening Money Line: Cavaliers -400 / Hawks +325
Current Money Line: Cavaliers -480 / Hawks +380

LeBron James leads the Cavs against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron James leads the Cavs against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Atlanta Hawks finished seven games better than the Clevleand Cavaliers and won 3 of the 4 regular season meetings. Many thought when both teams advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, that Atlanta would continue that dominance with key players being injured for the Cavaliers such as Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. That has been far from the case as Cleveland dominated 7 of the 8 quarters in the two games in Atlanta and took a 2-0 series lead. Now the series shifts to Cleveland, and this has the makings of being a short series. Game three is Sunday in Cleveland.

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 game one against Atlanta 97-89, but the final score made the game seem closer than it was. In game two Friday, Kyrie Irving was a late scratch with knee tendonitis that has bothered him throughout the playoffs. Atlanta led briefly a few times in the first quarter but would never lead again after 19-17. The Cavaliers would be up by 5 both at the end of the first and at halftime.

The Cavaliers dominated the third, and led by as many as 20. The Cavaliers would take an 18 point lead into the fourth and cruised to a 94-82 win. Atlanta made a slight rally in garbage time but it was too little too late. As they were in game one, the biggest differences in the game were rebounding and three point shooting. Cleveland had a huge edge in both categories. The Cavaliers had 47 rebounds to 39 for the Hawks. Cleveland made 12/30 three pointers and Atlanta made 6/26.

LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 30 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. Iman Shumpert had 16 points and 4 rebounds. Matthew Dellavedova had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists starting in place of Irving. Irving is questionable for game two. Timofey Mozgov had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Tristan Thompson had 7 points, but he pulled down 16 rebounds and added 2 blocks. James Jones and J.R. Smith each added 9 points off the bench.

Dennis Schroder led the Hawks with 13 points. Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver each scored 12 points for the Hawks. Horford and Korver each suffered leg injuries in the fourth quarter of game two. Horford is questionable for game three with  a knee injury. Korver is out for the playoffs after suffering a badly sprained ankle. Forward DeMarre Carroll is probable with a knee injury of his own, suffered in game one. he played 34 minutes in game two but wasn’t nearly as effective on either end of the court as he had been throughout the playoffs.

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Atlanta is coached by Mike Budenholzer, who was named NBA coach of the year. The Hawks are 55-40-2 this season and the total is 47-51. Atlanta was a 3.5 point favorite in game two and the total was 193. Cleveland  is coached by David Blatt. Cleveland is 46-48 ATS and the total is 37-56-1.

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. Kyle Korver averages 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game.  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.  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 6-0 ATS after a double digit home loss, 7-1 after a straight up loss of more than 10 points, 4-1 after failing to cover, 13-6-1 against teams with winning home records, 5-11-1 overall and against Eastern Conference teams, 4-9-1 against teams with winning records, 0-4-1 in Sunday games, and 0-4 against Central teams. The underdog is 4-1 ATS in this series recently. The Hawks are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 trips to Cleveland.

Cleveland is 8-3 against Southeast teams, 4-9 on one day rest, and 1-5 after a straight up win of more than 10 points. The over is 11-5 in this series recently and 5-1 in Cleveland between the teams.

While Cleveland has injury issues of their own, they are in much better shape than the Hawks right now. Cleveland might actually have the luxury of sitting Irving until the Finals, when they will need him against extremely likely opponent Golden State. I don’t see Lebron letting Atlanta back int0 this series, and I think the Cavs put them on the brink of elimination.

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