Cavaliers Hawks Game 3 Preview
SKIES GETTING DARKER FOR ATLANTA HAWKS...BUT THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT HOUSTON/LAC
The only thing worse than looking helpless on your home court in an NBA series opener is looking helpless in the first TWO games on your home court! Things couldn't possibly be bleaker right now for the top seeded Atlanta Hawks in their Eastern Conference Championship series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only are they down 2-0 heading to Cleveland...but they're not even playing competitive basketball in their losses.
But...now that the Houston Rockets have shown that a three-point shooting team can come back from a 99% loss potential in a series...we know that nothing is over until the final buzzer has sounded. Atlanta definitely has a chance to at least save face if nothing else. That would be enough to cover two pointspreads in Cleveland even if they get swept. It will take the following for the Hawks to extend the series deeper:
*Start making some THREE's!
*Hope Cleveland starts missing more three's.
*Stop double teaming LeBron away from the basket!
*Play with confidence instead of fear
*Hope Cleveland gets complacent and takes their foot off the gas
That's all it takes to flip the switch. You'll recall that Houston flipped their switch in similar fashion. Just substitute "stop the Hack-a-Crap" for double-teaming LeBron as a defensive principal, and the lists align. Houston started playing with confidence and making their treys. The Clippers got complacent, then tired, and couldn't buy a basket in the fourth quarter of Game Six and through much of Game Seven.
We're not suggesting that a replay is imminent. Just that it's possible. Handicappers shouldn't assume Atlanta is dead and buried just yet. Though, these boxscore stats from Game Two are pretty gloomy...
GAME TWO STATS
Cleveland 94, Atlanta 82
Shooting Pct: Cleveland 43%, Atlanta 42%
Three-Pointers: Cleveland 12/30, Atlanta 6/26
Free Throws: Cleveland 16/26, Atlanta 10/13
Rebounds: Cleveland 47, Atlanta 39
Turnovers: Cleveland 12, Atlanta 11
Vegas Line: Atlanta by 3.5, total of 193
Atlanta is mortal when the treys aren't falling at a decent clip, and even worse when they're posting numbers like 6 of 26 (here) and 4 of 23 (Game One). Cleveland is ahead 22-10 in made treys...which is +36 points over two games. The scoreboard edge is only +20...so the Cavs are winning this series from behind the arc. That was supposed to be Atlanta's pathway!
What's happening is that Cleveland, defensively, is doing a good job of denying good looks from long range...while Atlanta's defense is actually CREATING open looks for the Cavs by double-teaming LeBron all the time. The King dishes to an open teammate who drains the trey. How have the Hawks not noticed this is killing them?
Rebounds are also an issue. Cleveland is +12 and +8 through two games, providing extra scoring opportunities when they do miss. Defense and rebounding wins championships. Cleveland wasn't seen as that type of team during the regular season. They've picked up their intensity, under the leadership of a guy who's won a few championships. Atlanta has limited playoff experience, and is playing that way round-by-round in the weaker NBA conference.
Sunday's Game Three Line: Cleveland by 8.5, total of 190.5
Big jump here from earlier expectations because Atlanta's playing so poorly...and because of the injury to Kyle Korver. Let's be realistic though. Atlanta isn't losing a guy who was playing great! Maybe everyone else will rally around the flag just as Cleveland relaxes. That scenario is certainly in play Sunday.
JIM HURLEY is working very closely with his on-site sources to get a read on the mindset of both teams. If Atlanta really has mentally thrown in the towel, then this will probably be another loss in the 10-14 point rage. But, if they show up just as Cleveland loses focus...then we have a potential nailbiter or even a road dog upset. INFORMATION IS EVERYTHING when it comes to picking this winner!
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Back to Houston tomorrow to study Game Four of the Western Finals. Then it's Game Four here in Cleveland on Tuesday. If the schedule permits, we'll throw in some baseball this week as we bide our time for the NBA Finals that begin in June. Maybe the series underdogs will extend the NBA for a few extra days. You know the TV networks are hoping for that!
See you tomorrow for more basketball analysis. Thanks for being a daily reader of the NETWORK NOTEBOOK. Now, hook up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for some BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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