The Warriors effectively ended their series last night with an absolute dismantling of the Houston Rockets on their home floor. The Cavs have a chance to do the same thing tonight, to make short work of the Conference Finals, and they don’t even have to go on the road to do so. Even better for them, they may be at full strength for the first time this series (though with Kyrie, even playing doesn’t automatically guarantee he is actually “right”), while the Hawks are seeming to come undone in all facets. DeMarre Carroll, their best hope at defending LeBron, is hurt. Same for second-best option Thabo Sepholosha who was injured before the postseason started. That effectively handcuffs their defense. Now, their offense is getting similar shackles with the devastating news that Kyle Korver’s season is over as well. Even though he wasn’t shooting particularly well lately, his value in spacing the floor and occupying a defense’s attention is hard to overstate. They are outscored by thirty points with him on the bench so far this series.
So do the Hawks have ANY chance at getting back in this series. On the road, nonetheless? Or are we just buying time before the Finals most NBA fans wanted; Steph and LeBron, gets under way?
Let’s dive inside tonight’s matchup and get back on the winning side.
Today’s Free Pick:
Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers -9
The roster is beginning to thin a bit for Atlanta who very well might have to start Ken Bazemore in lieu of the injured Korver and Carroll. Their defense is crushed with the loss of Carroll, and the fear that keeps defenders from cheating down on their talented bigs, Horford and Milsap, is significantly hampered by the loss of Korver. The plus-side of tonight is that the Hawks will get to throw a completely new look at a Cleveland team that seemed to have them figured out. The downside is that this new look doesn’t have the appearance of a good look… Who is going score? How are they going to defend? Where do any bench contributions come from? Lots of questions. None with good answers.
I think Cleveland sees the Finals finish line, and also knows that they are a little thin with injuries and attrition as well. They NEED a week to rest up if they have any chance of competing with the Warriors in the Finals. Skeptics were everywhere before the postseason began; does Golden State shoot too many jumpshots, can a team that hasn’t been past the second round (and even to it only once) really make the big leap to Champion? But now that they are basically IN the Finals, it is clear the team that put together one of the ten best regular seasons in NBA history is legit. The Cavs have a lot of holes and a lot of fatigue and nagging injuries (including the most troubling one to Kyrie).
There is a HUGE need to wrap this series up quick and not get on another plane until the head out to the Bay Area for the Finals. I think they play with a bigger sense of urgency than a team up 2-0 playing on their home floor generally musters. Nine points feels like an appropriate line, but I think Cleveland stretches it out as their better depth and health wear out Atlanta. No one can check LeBron today, so look for another near triple-double and close to 30 from the King in a big Cavs win.