The Eastern Conference Finals promises to be a gigantic clash between the two best regular season teams in the East as the hobbling but still fighting Cleveland Cavaliers go up against the healthy and soaring Atlanta Hawks. We start our player comparisons with the head of the snake as Kyrie Irving and Jeff Teague figure in an exciting matchup between two All Star point guards.
The Cavaliers and Hawks matched up four times in the regular season but only three of them had an Irving-Teague spectacle as the latter missed a game in their regular season series.
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To begin our comparison, here are some numbers from the regular season:
To add some context, Kyrie Irving’s numbers were boosted by the absence of LeBron James in one of their losses as Irving went on to score 35 points while committing 8 miscues. Also, the first three meetings between their teams did not feature the Cavalier lineup that we’re seeing right now as the trades involving JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov have not been consummated during that time so the best playoff simulation would have been their last contest which the Hawks won in Atlanta, 106-97. Here are their stats from that game:
To no surprise, efficiency is the key for both court generals in their victories but it should also be given notice that in the Atlanta wins, Teague was more aggressive as not only did he score more, his turnovers also translated to him being more involved in the offense.
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It doesn’t help the Hawk guard’s cause that prior to battling Irving, Teague has already matched up against quality point guards in Deron Williams and John Wall from their earlier playoff counterparts. It could work for him if he gains enough confidence heading into the conference finals but it could also go against his favor if his field goal shooting (39.9%) and turnover numbers (3.0) continue its downward spiral.
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On the other hand, Irving is experiencing an assortment of injuries that have limited his mobility and perhaps affected his decision making but he is still very dangerous on offense with his exceptional shooting, great timing, and mastery of angles. The legitimate question for Irving going into this matchup is how much trust does he have on his body. He can definitely put pressure on Teague and make him play honest defense but it’s still to be determined if he can avoid being a liability on defense because if he won’t be keeping up with the quickness and athleticism of Teague, he may find himself chasing Kyle Korver around the Atlanta court.
The Conference Finals are a whole new monster that they are both facing and we are now ready to witness a battle of heart and savvy between two backcourt stars who are raring to get to the next level.