Eastern Conference Finals Preview
CLEVELAND HEAVILY FAVORED TO WIN EAST, BUT GAME ONE IS A TOSS-UP IN ATLANTA
The betting markets currently see the Cleveland Cavaliers as a 2-1 favorite to win their Eastern Conference Championship series against the Atlanta Hawks. But, the Cavs must win at least one game on the road to advance to the league finals. And, it's conceivable that they won't be favored in any particular game to get that done!
Will Cleveland go for the jugular right out of the gate? Or, will LeBron James bide his time early in this series (as he did vs. Chicago) to get a feel for how best to handle the Hawks? Handicappers have a lot to think about between now and tipoff. Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicators stats have to say about the matchup from top to bottom.
Cleveland: 107.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #4 in the NBA)
Atlanta: 106.2 per 100 possessions (ranked #6 in the NBA)
These were very efficient offenses during the regular season. Yet, both have had some issues in the postseason about running into long dry spells. Cleveland was obviously hurt by the loss of Kevin Love, and the injuries to Kyrie Irving. Credit the bench for picking up a lot of slack, and LeBron James for putting on his superman cape when needed. Atlanta's offense turned mortal very quickly...possibly because of nerves...or possibly because it's easier to disrupt that kind of offense when you see it several days in a row. It's worth noting, though, that Washington has an excellent defense. Atlanta's offense is likely to look better vs. Cleveland than it did in the last series.
Cleveland: 104.1 per 100 possessions (ranked #20 in the NBA)
Atlanta: 100.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #7 in the NBA)
See what we mean? Washington entered the postseason at #5 defensively. Cleveland is down at #20, and has worn down a bit more since then. The Cavs were lucky Chicago doesn't have consistent shooters! Cleveland could be in real trouble here if they allow a bunch of open looks every night to an Atlanta team that's no longer feeling pressure as a series underdog. Both offenses are good...but the edge on this side of the floor goes to the Hawks.
Cleveland gets VERY slow when possessions are important. LeBron wants to hold the ball for 10 seconds (or more) then attack. That has actually worked so well through his career that there's no reason to go a different route. Atlanta will seem like a much faster team here even though they're only about league average in pace. Expect the Hawks to push tempo a bit in hopes of getting open looks on treys. Expect Cleveland to try to slow things to a crawl. Whoever controls that point of emphasis will be best positioned to win the series.
Against the Spread
Atlanta was extremely underrated during the regular season. But, they've been overrated in the playoffs. They took a few steps backward in production (and overall scariness) the minute the postseason started. Cleveland seems more dangerous in dog/pick-em scenarios right now than as a favorite. They don't really have a lineup that can run away and hide from people unless their opponent just misses every shot for minutes at a time (as the Bulls did in Game Six). Possibly a series where Atlanta offers the most value as a road dog.
Tuesday's Game One Line: Atlanta by 1, total of 197
Cleveland is seen as the superior team...and would be about -2 on a neutral court based on projected market pricing through the series. You can't really argue with that impression based only on playoff action. But, during the regular season...and in the unique matchups of offense/defense in this series...it's very possible that we have two even teams matching up. Time will tell whether or not Atlanta will thrive now that the pressure is off. Remember that Atlanta is "the San Antonio of the East," and that San Antonio really caught fire at this point last season.
JIM HURLEY will take full advantage of the long lead-in to this series. His on-site sources will let him know the injury status of Kyrie Irving, and the mindset of the young Hawks. Expect some major releases in this series! You can purchase BEST BETS for this game and Wednesday baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
It's going to be nightly basketball for the forseeable future here in the NOTEBOOK, as the two Conference Final matchups alternate days on the TV schedule. Here's how it looks...
Thursday: Game Two Preview...Houston at Golden State
Friday: Game Two Preview...Cleveland at Atlanta
Saturday: Game Three Preview...Golden State at Houston
Sunday: Game Three Preview...Atlanta at Cleveland
Monday: Game Four Preview...Golden State at Houston
Tuesday: Game Four Preview...Atlanta at Cleveland
We'll review the key stats of the prior game as we ponder possibilities in each night's matchup. That format has worked for us for YEARS here on these pages. Thanks to all of you who have been with us from the beginning! You all have learned through the years that YOU'RE GOING TO GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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