Cavs vs Hawks Betting Game 4: Cleveland on Verge of Finals

cleveland-vs-atlanta-bettingThere 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 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

jr-smith-clevelandWhile 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

jeff-teagueDuring 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

Hawks vs Nets Game 6 Betting

hawks-vs-nets-game-6-bettingThe first-round series between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets has been much closer than expected. After all, Brooklyn needed to win their last regular season game just to grab the eighth seed, while Atlanta won an Eastern Conference-best 60 games en route to the top seed.

But here we find both teams heading into a Game 6 matchup, with Atlanta leading the series 3-2. The Hawks won by 10 points on their home floor, however, they now play in Brooklyn, where they’ve yet to win so far. Can they notch a road victory and close out the series? We’ll discuss that in a moment, but first, here’s what you need to know about the game time and Hawks vs Nets Game 6 betting:

Game Time: Friday, May 1st at 8:00pm EST Line:
Atlanta Hawks – 4 (-110)    Over 200.5 (-110)
Brooklyn (-110)                 Under 200.5 (-110)

Despite failing to notch a road win so far, Atlanta is favored on our line by 4 points. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that the Hawks can win this game, especially with how effective their pick and roll has been. Jeff Teague and Al Horford have done an excellent job working together, burning the Nets with the pick and roll quite often.

al-horfordBrooklyn unfortunately saw a lot of Teague and Horford, along with the other three Hawks starters, Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver. Mike Budenholzer chose to play all of his starters at least 35 minutes, while relying on the bench very little. Much is made about the Hawks’ four All-Stars, and Carroll is really playing like a fifth All-Star in this series (17 PPG, 42% three-point shooting). However, Budenholzer might not get away with yet a second game where he plays the starters for extended minutes.

Switching to the Nets, they have a slightly deeper team, especially with Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic back from injuries. But some players in the rotation – notably Joe Johnson (35.8 FG%) and Deron Williams (33.3%) – have struggled to hit shots. Williams is the worst offender because, outside of a 35-point, 13-for-25 night, he’s shot pretty poorly from the field. In the Game 5 loss, he made just 2-of-8 shots and finished with 5 points.

The one good thing for Brooklyn in Game 5, though, is that their bench outscored the Hawks 41-16. Much of this had to do with how little Atlanta’s bench saw the floor, but still, 41 points off the pine is nice production.

So who’s going to win Game 6?

brook-lopezBased purely on series trends, Brooklyn would be the favorite to pull out the victory simply because they’re at home. However, unless Johnson or Williams gets hot, it’s hard to see Brooklyn getting enough offense to win yet a third game against Atlanta, which has very good defensive rotation.

The only truly reliable players for the Nets have been Brook Lopez (20 PPG), Jarrett Jack (12.6 PPG) and Alan Anderson (12.0 PPG), while Johnson and Williams have been hit or miss…mostly miss.

As for Atlanta, they will likely do whatever it takes to close this series out, even if it means another heavy load for the starters. Washington is getting more and more rest as we speak, so look for the Hawks to finally put this thing to an end.

Final Score Prediction: Atlanta 99 – Brooklyn 93

Are the Pacers headed for a First-Round Loss?

atlanta-indiana-game-2One of the big NBA storylines over the past few weeks has been the continued struggles of the Indiana Pacers. After rushing out to a sizable lead in the Eastern Conference, Indiana dropped behind Miami at one point, before finally rallying to re-take the number-one seed.

However, even with the way that Indiana limped down the stretch, not many people seriously expected the Atlanta Hawks to challenge them in the first round. This is, after all, the same Hawks team that lost their star center, Al Horford, to a torn pectoral muscle early in the season, and barely held off the disastrous Knicks for the East’s eighth seed.

But you can throw out everything that’s happened up to this point because a 38-win Atlanta squad holds a 1-0 lead in this series. So the question now becomes, are the Pacers headed for a downfall of epic proportions in the first round?

The obvious takeaway from Game 1 is that the Hawks’ big players, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, really showed up when it counted. Teague scored 28 points and dished out five assists while Millsap provided 25 points and eight rebounds. Aside from their stars playing well, the Hawks shot pretty well from the outside, hitting 11 out of a franchise-record 30 three-point attempts (36.7%). And this is exactly where Atlanta’s advantage lies in the series – outside shooting.

Indiana knew well in advance that their opponent is a perimeter-oriented team. David West said as much before Game 1 when he called the Hawks a “jump shooting team.” But the Pacers didn’t do a great job of forcing Atlanta out of their comfort zone. This isn’t a team that’s going to take many shots over Roy Hibbert and West in the paint. They’re going to put the ball in Teague’s hands in isolation sets and let him create opportunities with his quickness.

atlanta-indiana-game-1Closing out on Atlanta’s shooters wasn’t Indiana’s only problem. Their go-to swingman, Paul George, scored 24 points, but hit just 6-of-18 shots. West wasn’t much better as he made 4-of-10 attempts in a quiet, 8-point effort. Hibbert’s 4-of-9 shooting didn’t look so bad, until you consider that he made two garbage-time layups near the end. Then there was Louis Scola, who was the opposite of firepower off the bench with his 0-for-6 shooting effort. Coupled with the loss, it’s no wonder why Scola was later seen staring at the locker room floor.

Finally, there was the third quarter, where Atlanta went on a game-defining 14-0 run that put them ahead by a score of 74-58. From here, it was all about protecting their lead for Atlanta, which they did fairly well en route to a 101-93 victory.

Indiana is of course trying to remain optimistic about their outlook. “It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating, but it’s a long series,” George said following the disappointing loss. “It’s just one game and that’s the way we have to look at it.”

However, this one game was on the home floor of the NBA’s best home team. Now they face the prospect of having to win four out of six games, with three of these contests being in Atlanta. It’s not an impossible task for a talented team that looked so good to open the season. But the Pacers have to find a way to keep the Hawks from continually spreading the floor and getting open looks from beyond the arc.

Dwight Howard to Houston and Other Big NBA Offseason Moves

dwight-howard-hostonThe Houston Rockets are the big winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Many NBA analysts and writers tabbed Houston as the favorite to land the 7-time All-Star center all along. And Howard confirmed these rumors with the following tweet:

I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.

Many people wondered if Howard would stay at least one more season since the Lakers could’ve offered him $30 million next year. However, he decided that a four-year, $88 million deal with Houston was plenty of money.

He’ll now join a strong Rockets cast that features All-Star shooting guard James Harden (26.3PPG, 6.7RPG), small forward Chandler Parsons (18.2PPG, 6.5RPG), point guard Patrick Beverley (11.8PPG, 2.8APG) and center Omer Asik (12.3PPG, 11.2RPG). Asik isn’t expected to be in Houston much longer though since the Rockets are furiously trying to trade him with the arrival of Howard.

Five teams with cap room courted the thee-time Defensive Player of the Year, including the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. But after considering all of the offers, Howard chose to go with the team that he feels gives him the best opportunity to win.

dwight-howardThis was supposed to be what Los Angeles was last season. However, they struggled all year long, finally making the playoffs as a seventh seed. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant went down at the end of the regular season, which heavily contributed to San Antonio’s easy sweep of the Lakers. With an aging Bryant still rehabbing his ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard figured that Houston’s young nucleus of Harden, Parsons and Beverley gives him a better long-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard’s signing has created a slight domino effect where other big-name players have finally ended their team search. That said, let’s take a look at some of the recent NBA offseason moves and rumors.

Pistons land Next Best Thing in Josh Smith 

josh-smith-hawksWith several teams focused on Howard, Josh Smith was somewhat of an afterthought in the free agent market…except in the Detroit Piston’s eyes. Detroit management made it clear from the start that Smith was their man, and he rewarded them by signing a 4-year deal worth $56 million.

Last year was pretty dismal for the Pistons after they finished 29-53 and never made a serious playoff push. So having a multi-talented power forward like Smith on board will immediately pay dividends. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Hawks last season. Detroit figures to have one of the league’s better front courts since they also feature 6’11” Greg Monroe (16.0PPG, 9.6RPG) and 6’10” Andre Drummond (7.9PPG, 7.6RPG, 1.6BPG).

Gasol staying put with Lakers

pau-gasol-steve-nashTo say that Pau Gasol struggled to find his place last year with Howard in the lineup was an understatement. The Spaniard suffered one of his worst season ever after averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shooting 46.6% – all down from career averages of 18.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 51.8%.

This being said, it was thought that L.A. might trade Gasol if Howard re-signed with them. Since this fell through, it’s a given that the Lakers will keep Gasol, and he’s likely to move back over from power forward to his natural center position.

Paul Millsap signs Two-Year Deal with Hawks

paul-millsapNow out of the running for Howard and all but guaranteed to lose Smith, Atlanta salvaged something by inking a two-year, $19 million deal with Paul Millsap. The former Utah Jazz power forward averaged 14 PPG and 7 RPG last season, and should make a nice compliment to center Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague.

Millsap’s Utah teammate, DeMarre Carroll, will also be coming to the Hawks after signing a two-year, $5 million deal. The fourth-year man out of Missouri averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 16.8 MPG.

Dallas Mavericks grab Jose Calderon

There is no consolation prize to losing Dwight Howard this summer – especially for a desperate Mavericks team. But they’re hoping that the addition of PG Jose Calderon can boost their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Calderon, who played with both the Raptors and Pistons in 2013, signed a fairly big four-year, $29 million deal with Dallas. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG and shot 90.4% from the free-throw line last year.

San Antonio is eyeing Kenyon Martin

Despite being 35 years old, Kenyon Martin showed that he still has something left in the tank after averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the New York Knicks. Now that he’s a free agent, the Spurs are interested in adding him to their bench. He would back up Tim Duncan at power forward and spell Tiago Splitter at center.

Chris Copeland signs with the Pacers

Chris Copeland may not be much of a defender, but he can definitely provide some offense (8.7PPG) along with a nice three-point touch (42.1%). Taking this into account, Indiana picked up the second-year man out of Colorado through a two-year, $6.1 million deal. As a hybrid small forward/power forward, he’ll definitely give the Pacers a different look off the bench.

NBA Power Rankings for Dec. 6th, 2012

With grueling road trips and tough injuries, the top NBA teams are constantly flip-flopping in the standings. Lately, the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks have taken control of their conferences after a good run. But that could all change next week due to the fickle nature of the NBA. This being said, our following power rankings take talent and potential into play just as much as the actual team records.

1. New York Knicks (14-4) – After dropping three out of four games towards the end of November, the Knicks are back on top following five straight wins. The latest victory was a 20-point blowout of the Heat in Miami. And remember that all of this is still happening without Amare Stoudemire.

2. Miami Heat (12-5) – As we just mentioned, Miami lost by 20 points to the Knicks. Plus they lost to league bottom-feeders Washington just a couple of nights earlier. Still, the Heat are the defending champions and we don’t see many scenarios where this could change by the end of the year.

3. San Antonio Spurs (15-4) – With a recent win over the Western Conference-leading Grizzlies, we like the Spurs a lot right now. Tim Duncan continues to pace San Antonio with his usual 18.8 PPG and 10.1 RPG.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (13-3) – It really looks like the Grizzlies are evolving into a title contender this year. Mike Conley Jr. continues to raise his game throughout the year since he’s now averaging 15.0 PPG and dishing out 6.3 APG. Zach Randolph is also playing excellent so far with 17.7 PPG and 13.3 RPG.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4) – One could argue that the Thunder should be higher; however, almost 20 games into the season, we have yet to see Oklahoma City beat a top-tier team. We’ll wait until future big-time matchups to see where the Thunder stand without James Harden.

6. L.A. Clippers (12-6) – Offseason additions like Lamar Odom and Grant Hill haven’t really panned out. However, every starter is averaging double digits and Chris Paul is doing an excellent job of distributing the ball (9.5 APG).

7. Brooklyn Nets (11-6) – The Nets had a five-game win streak snapped by the Heat and Thunder. And while we don’t think Brooklyn is quite ready to contend with these league superpowers, they are looking like a strong playoff team. Brook Lopez (18.5 PPG) is having another strong offensive campaign thanks to the passing contributions of Deron Williams (8.8 APG).

8. Atlanta Hawks (10-5) – Atlanta has replaced Joe Johnson’s scoring with a balanced effort that includes more contributions from Louis Williams (14.1 PPG), Jeff Teague (13.3 PPG) and Kyle Korver (10.8 PPG).

9. L.A. Lakers (9-10) – Based on talent alone, we’re still keeping the Lakers in our top 10. However, it may not be long before they drop out if this keeps up! Both Kobe Bryant (28.0 PPG) and Dwight Howard (18.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.84 BPG) have played as advertised. However, Pau Gasol (12.6 PPG) continues to struggle to find a place in this offense and has been involved in trade rumors.

10. Golden State Warriors (11-7) – For the first time this year, Golden State cracks our top 10 after getting off to a hot start. SG Klay Thompson (16.0 PPG) is looking much better in his second season while both Stephen Curry (19.1 PPG, 6.6 APG) and David Lee (17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG) lead this team.