Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

The Eastern Conference gets a match up of two young, up and coming teams with the Cleveland Cavaliers visiting Georgia to take on the Atlanta Hawks at the State Farm Arena. The Cavaliers started the second half of the season with a 116-82 loss to New Orleans on Friday night while Atlanta took care of Sacramento on Saturday, 121-106. This will be the third match between these teams this year with Cleveland winning the first two.

Atlanta 4-0 Under McMillan

The Hawks downed Sacramento to start the second half of the season 2-0 and are currently riding a four game winning streak. While the win did not move them up in the playoff race, they are only a game and a half behind New York for the seventh spot and only two games separate the fourth through eighth seeds. If Atlanta can keep playing like they have been, they are going to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-’17 season. Early on in the game against the Kings, it was looking bad for Atlanta as they ended the first quarter down by double digits. That quickly changed as they went on a 24-2 second quarter run and never looked back. Ever since head coach Nate McMillan took over for fired coach Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks have not lost, going 4-0 so far.

Clint Capela was a huge reason for Atlanta’s win over Sacramento as he put up 24 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks to help the Hawks recover from being down 14 points early in the game. Trae Young did his usual part on offense, collecting 28 points and nine assists while shooting 9-17 from the floor and 5-10 from behind the arc. Young is playing loose out there during the winning streak because, as he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It’s definitely more fun when you’re winning.” Danilo Gallinari had a nice game off the bench with 15 points and seven rebounds while Rajon Rondo chipped in another 10 points off the bench as well. Atlanta’s offense is 14th in the NBA with 113.1 points a contest while their defense is ranked 18th overall by giving up 112.2. The Hawks do defend the three very well, however, holding opponents to 34.1% behind the arc, second best in the NBA.

Cleveland Starts Second Half on the Wrong Foot

For a team that is still in the playoff race, their game against the Pelicans out of the break was terrible on all fronts. They got blasted by 34, shooting 31% from the floor and 7-32 on three pointers (21.2%) in a game where only two players scored in double figures (Collin Sexton and Larry Nance Jr.). Just before the break, they had lost a close game to Indiana and now they’re going against a hot Atlanta team that has won four in a row. If the Cavs are going to have a shot at the playoffs, they will need to win games like this, but on the bright side they have already beaten Atlanta twice this season, with one of them only a few weeks ago when they beat them by a point, 112-111.

While the New Orleans game was a dude, Collin Sexton was the only player who played a solid game, logging 19 points and three steals over 31 minutes. He is Cleveland’s best player this year, averaging 23.9 points, 4.3 assists, and 1.2 steals on 48.4% shooting from the floor. Sexton has also played well against Atlanta this season, averaging 28 points and shooting 50% from behind the arc. With Garland still injured, Jarrett Allen becomes even more important to Cleveland as he has proven himself to be one of their best players since arriving in a trade early on this season. He averages 13.2 points and 9.8 boards a game, good for 12th in the NBA. Kevin Love and Nance both returned from injury but Love is on limited minutes although Nance was able to go 28 minutes, which is a positive sign. They’ll need all the help they can get on the offensive end because Cleveland only puts up 104 points a game, last in the NBA.

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet

Cleveland has won both games against Atlanta this season, but the Hawks are heating up right now and have beaten teams such as Miami, Boston, and Denver over their last ten games. While the Cavs had been playing well before losing two in a row, they may not have Garland again and Atlanta has more offensive weapons in their arsenal. One thing Sexton does well is play big against good teams so he will get his points, but the Hawks are going to make it hard for them on defense with Young, Collins, and Capela. They’ll also try to get Cleveland in foul trouble as Atlanta is 5th in free throw percentage at 84.7%. With Love on a minutes restriction and Nance still returning from injury, I don’t think they’ll be enough of a factor to contain the Hawks who will run away with this after halftime. Take Atlanta.

Atlanta -6.5

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Full-Game Total Pick

Cleveland is dead last in the league in points a game, but over their last ten games against Atlanta they have scored less than 108 points only one time. During their four game winning streak, Atlanta has scored more than their average per game three out of four times. The Hawks are the hotter team right now and will control the tempo of this game early by letting their stars do their thing on offense. Cleveland should be able to keep up in the beginning, with Sexton and Young doing their thing on the offensive end. In their previous meetings, neither teams has had trouble putting up points and that continues on Sunday. Take the over.