The Cavs travel to Atlanta tonight to take on the Hawks at Phillips Arena. This game means more to the Cavs than most realize, coming off a horrible and embarrassing home loss to the then 6-23 Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon, as well as suffering a very similar home defeat to the Hawks on December 17th.
The first time these two teams met, the Cavs handled the Hawks; the second time, the Hawks got revenge and embarrassed Cleveland on its home court. After two very different games, anticipating anything tonight has ambiguity similar to a coin toss. Here are eight predictions for tonight’s matchup as the Cavs try to bounce back from a very rocky 5-5 record in their last 10 games. Start the gallery at #1 on the next page!
#1 Kyrie’s Return
Kyrie Irving has missed the past two games with a left knee contusion suffered in the final seconds of Christmas Days match-up in Miami. The Cavs have gone 1-1 with him out, but have definitely missed a step with him on he sidelines.
Kyrie will be a welcome addition in many ways. We all love Matthew Dellavedova here at Cavs Nation, but he simply isnt good enough to be the starting point guard for this team. Although LeBron seems to be taking control at the point recently, you still need someone capable of scoring one on one, which isnt Delly’s strong suite. Delly can head back to the bench and help lead the second unit against a tough Atlanta Hawks outfit. He and Kyrie will share the responsibility of containing a very volatile Jeff Teague, who can simply score from anywhere on the court.
With our All Star Point Guard back in the starting five, it provides the Cavaliers with a lot more offensive firepower. Much has been said about Kyrie’s lack of passing ability, but the kid sure can score. Kyrie’s 20.2 ppg average will be welcomes back with open arms.
Continue to #2 on the next page!
#2 Can Cavs Sustain A Quick Start?
The Cavs are the number one team in the league right now in putting up points in the first quarter. But how many times have we seen these incredible shooting performances and leads dwindle down the stretch? Way to many.
During the home loss on December 17th, the Cavs actually led the Hawks at the first break 34-26 behind the Cavs amazing shooting to start the game. Remember Cavs Nation, offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. And its championships we’re hungry for here in Cleveland. In the final three quarters of the December match-up, the Cavs were outscored 101-64, proving that our defense has a long way to go, but our offense could use work too.
Continue to #3 on the next page!
#3 The Three-Pointer Will Make It Or Break It For The Cavs
In Sundays horrible loss to Detroit, the Cavs allowed the Pistons to hit a franchise record 17 three point shots, and saw the Pistons hit a ridiculous 55% of their three point attempts fall. On December 17th’s loss to ATL at home, the Cavs gave up 16 triples to the Hawks while watching them shoot 57% from deep. Are we seeing a common theme here?
But wait, theres more! When the Cavs blew out the Hawks at home in November, we hit our first 11 three point attempts, including going 9/9 in the first quarter and ended up with a total of 19 made three point field goals. Shooting 62% while doing it.
Two Words: Shelvin, Mack. Don’t let his calm demeanor surprise you, as the Hawks backup Point Guard can fill it up from downtown. In Cleveland’s blowout loss to the Hawks earlier this month, the Cavs were caught completely off guard with a relentless “Mack Attack” from the perimeter including five 3’s in one quarter!
A team can live or die by the three-point line, we’ve seen that first hand. D THE 3!
Continue to #4 on the next page!
#4 Hawks Will Use Home Court Advantage
Tonights game is a huge test for our Cavaliers, not only are the Hawks one of the hottest teams in the league right now, but they’re 13-3 at home, while the Cavs are 7-6 on the road. When we sit at home and watch these games, we underestimate how much of an advantage playing at home can be.
The Hawks average 100.6 points a night as a team when they’re at home, a number in which Cleveland must cut that down considerably. In both previous encounters its been a high scoring afair, the winning team putting up 127 in both wins.
The Cavs are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to opponents field goal percentage per game, 25th to be exact, allowing their opponents to shoot .469%. Against a hot Hawks team, at home, that will have to be much better and could be the deciding factor in the game.
Continue to #5 on the next page!
#5 LeBron Will Be Out To Prove A Point On His 30th
Happy 30th Birthday LeBron! Coming off two lackluster performances and a hell of a lot of media attention due to coaching speculations, LeBron will have something to prove tonight.
LeBron had just 17 points in Sunday’s loss, and seemed disinterested. Look for LeBron to have on his birthday and come in with a bang, making Atlanta’s Demarre Carroll have to defend for his life on every possesion.
Continue to #6 on the next page!
#6 JT v Kyrie, starting point guards will be crucial
This game could very well be about the production of their respective starting point guards. In a Cavs winner in November, Kyrie and co held Jeff Teague to a 5 point performance, springing them to a blowout win helped by the addition of Kyrie’s 20 and 5 night.
In a Cavs loser earlier in December, Kyrie was held to just 9 points on 4-9 shooting, while ATL starting point guard Dennis Schroder had a 10 and 10 night. Most importantly, Hawks backup point guard had a game high 24 points, shooting 7-8 from the floor. Defending Atlanta’s point savy gaurds will be one of the main priorities in winning tonight’s game.
Continue to #7 on the next page!
#7 Millsap and Horford Will Score, A Lot
So remember just about every article you’ve read this season about the Cavaliers, and how it says we need at help protecting the rim? Well that couldnt be any more true against these Atlanta Hawks. One of the the huge reasons in why the Hawks have been one of the league’s hottest teams is the production they’ve had from their starting four and five.
Paul Millsap and Al Horford both have the ability to score from the low block and extend their range comfortably. Millsap even has the range to drain the three ball when called upon. We’ll likely see Thompson take Millsap’s extended range on the defensive end, meaning Horford will be Love’s defensive assignment.
On the other end of the floor though, Millsap and Horford will have their hands full with Love’s offensive production, and TT’s Andy-esque offensive rebounding, ‘never say die’ attitude. This will be fun to watch.
Continue to #8 on the next page!
#8 Bench Production Vital For Cleveland
The loss of Anderson Varejao has affected the Cavs more than people realize, including bench production. With Andy in the starting five, that allowed David Blatt to bring Thompson off the bench giving the Cavs an extra option on the offensive end.
Bench scoring recently has been a major issue for Cleveland, scoring a dismal 19 points off the bench on Sunday against the Pistons. Dion Waiters is the only true scorer that the bench has, as we see Delly come in and defend like his life depended upon it and drain the occasional corner three. Shawn Marion also joins that defensive mindset Delly brings, and well the rest of the bench are, well, bench players.
While the Hawks aren’t stacked by any means off the bench, they certainly do have players that can fill it up on any given night. Mike Scott, Thabo Sefolosha, Shelvin Mack, Kent Bazemore and Pero Antic are all capable of getting on the scoreboard for the Hawks.