There were a couple of big storylines in Game 3 of the playoff series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks. For starters, Al Horford was ejected in the first half after dropping an elbow on Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova. This was huge because Horford was leading the Hawks with 14 points at the time. Nevertheless, Atlanta came roaring back, only to finally be upended 114-111 (OT) thanks to a monster triple double by LeBron James (33 points, 18 boards, 13 assists). Will James have another insane effort tonight? We’ll discuss that soon, but let’s first take a look at the Game 4 betting line:
Game Time: Tuesday (May 25th) at 8:30pm ET on TNT
GTBets.eu Betting Line:
Cleveland -8 (-110) Over. 193.5 (-110)
Atlanta (-110) Under 193.5 (-110)
Last game was interesting because Atlanta played without Kyle Korver (out for playoffs) and Horford (missed over two quarters), yet still had their chances to win. Of course, it’s not like Cleveland doesn’t have key players out either, with Kevin Love (out for playoffs) and Kyrie Irving (questionable for Game 4) suffering from ailments. So can LeBron power this team to a fourth and final victory in the series? Or will Atlanta muster some of that magic that won them 60 games in the regular season?
1. LeBron might be shooting Poorly, but His Presence is All that Matters
James had his worst playoff shooting start ever on Sunday night, missing his first 10 shots before finally hitting one. He would go 14-for-27 the rest of the way, but his final stat line read 14-of-37 (37.8%). LeBron also made just 1-of-6 three-pointers, with the one he hit putting Cleveland ahead in overtime. But while the poor shooting performances continue for James, his presence is more valuable than anything (see 13 assists). Yes, the game was sloppy, but with Atlanta focusing so much on him, the other Cavs will continue hitting open shots.
2. Cleveland’s Small Ball Approach is working
While the mid-season acquisition of Timofey Mozgov was definitely a great move, he hasn’t really been utilized much this series (22 minutes last game). Instead, it has been Tristan Thompson playing center while J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and even James Jones continue seeing major minutes. Part of this is because the Hawks are undersized down low, but part of it is also Cleveland wanting to space the floor and get open looks for Smith, Shumpert and Dellavedova. And it’s working when you consider that they hit a combined 11 three-pointers.
3. Jeff Teague will continue dominating
The one player that the Cavs definitely can’t guard is Teague, especially with Irving hurt. Dellavedova plays great defense, but he’s not an elite talent, and he’s definitely not used to playing entire games. The end result is that Teague can get his shot pretty much any time he wants. Last game he made 9-of-23 shots for 30 points, so expect plenty more of this in Game 4.
4. The Hawks Bench has been a Disappointment
During the regular season, Atlanta’s bench was a big reason behind them grabbing the Eastern Conference’s number one seed. In this series, it’s been a big thing holding them back. Shelvin Mack had a strong game (5-for-10, 13 points), but the rest of the bench shot 3-for-13. Worse yet is that Mike Scott let a crucial loose ball go out of bounds right in front of him, thinking it was off Cleveland. Somebody on this bench has to step up for Atlanta to win.
5. Cleveland is playing with More Urgency
Despite the Hawks being down 3-0, the Cavs have played with more fire and intensity in this series. It’s pretty clear that LeBron wants to end this thing early and get the team some rest before their likely NBA Finals appearance. And that should be all the motivation they need to close out the series in Cleveland tonight.
Final Score Prediction: Cleveland 98 – Atlanta 91