Cavs vs Hawks Game 2 Betting: Will DeMarre Carroll play?

cleveland-vs-hawks-bettingThe Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a sluggish first quarter to steal Game 1 from the Atlanta Hawks on the latter’s home floor. Cleveland pulled away at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when J.R. Smith quickly made three of his eight 3-pointers in the game. However, the Hawks mounted a comeback in the late minutes, before a LeBron James’ dunk finally sealed the 97-89 victory. We’ll discuss what to expect next in this series, but first, here’s the Game 2 betting line:

Game Time: Friday (May 22nd) at 8:30pm ET
GTBets.eu Betting Line:
Atlanta -2 (-110)       Over 197 (-110)
Cleveland (-110)      Under 197 (-110)

The Hawks are still on their home floor, which is likely the big reason why they’re favored by 2 on our betting line. But this is a very tricking proposition, given that small forward DeMarre Carroll (knee) is questionable for Game 2. Carroll did not play particularly well on the offensive end for Atlanta, scoring 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting. However, he has really stepped up for the Hawks this postseason, averaging over 17 PPG. And if he can’t play due to his knee sprain, it would shorten their rotation.

Beyond Carroll, what else is going to play a big factor in tonight’s contest? Let’s take a look at a few very important points. for Game 2.

tristan-thompsonCleveland Physically dominated the Hawks

Atlanta definitely appeared the quicker team, especially when looking at point guard Jeff Teague. But they got absolutely crushed on the boards (49-37) by a bigger, stronger Cleveland team. Tristan Thompson abused the Hawks on the offensive glass while Timofey Mozgov (4 off. rebounds) also got into the act. The unfortunate thing for the Hawks is that, given how they don’t have any truly big guys on their roster, rebounding should stay an advantage for Cleveland.

Atlanta’s Big Men will continue to get Mid-range Jumpers

On the flip side, the Hawks’ big guys (Al Horford and Paul Millsap) should continue getting mid-range jumpers against the Cavs. Furthermore, both Horford and Millsap are more versatile than Mozgov and Thompson and are capable of driving to the hoop. Throw in the fact that F/C Pero Antic can hit the three when open, and this team can really spread the floor.

J.R. Smith’s Shooting could be the Series-Maker

Obviously Smith burying three after three was the difference-maker in Game 1. He was absolutely on fire when hitting step-back three’s and scoring 28 points overall. The Cavs can’t count on this type of performance every night from the wildcard shooting guard, however, if Smith strings together a couple more performances like this, then Cleveland should be able to take the series.

jeff-teagueJeff Teague will have No Trouble Scoring

Teague dominated the first half while scoring 17 of his 27 points in the first two periods. It was immediately evident that a hobbled Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova couldn’t keep up with the lightening-fast guard. The only thing that prevented Teague from going over 30 is that he got cold in the second half. But if both he and backup PG Dennis Schroder are able to get going, then Cleveland will be in trouble.

Without Carroll playing, LeBron could have a Field Day

Carroll was not particularly successful when defending LeBron. But if he can’t play tonight, and even in other future games, then the Hawks will be out of their best two options for guarding James (Thabo Sefolosha injured in NYC nightclub incident). Give Millsap some credit for trying to bang with LeBron and throw him off his game. But if this matchup continues in the series, then you can expect to see Millsap get burned again and again on the perimeter.

Game 2 Prediction: Cleveland 101 – Atlanta 97

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.

2014 NBA All-Star Rosters set – 7 First-Time Players make Cut

lamarcus-aldridge-all-star-gameThe 2014 NBA All-Star reserves were recently announced, which means that we now have complete teams to discuss. In all, seven players received their first ever All-Star selection, with Stephen Curry both getting his first nod and a starting role thanks to the fan vote.

Other first-time players who’ll be joining Curry on the Western Conference team include LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. The latter will be taking Kobe Bryant’s place on the team since he’s injured and can’t play. Lillard is not only playing in his first All-Star game, but also competing in four other contests over the weekend. As for Aldridge, he’s not only a first-time All-Star, but also a legitimate MVP candidate this year.

Moving to the Eastern Conference, first-time selections include DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap and John Wall. Now in his fifth year, DeRozan really seems to have stepped his game up while averaging 22 PPG and leading Toronto to the top of the Atlantic Division. Millsap, who’s spent most of his career in the West, seems to be enjoying his change of scenery in Atlanta. And Wall has now reached the potential that everybody predicted for him coming out of Kentucky.

Now that we’ve covered the first-timers in the 2014 NBA All-Star game, let’s take a quick look at the complete rosters, with stats included.

* = Starter
+ = Injured player

Eastern Conference All-Stars

* F Carmelo Anthony, New York – 27.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.0 APG
* F Paul George, Indiana – 22.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG
* F LeBron James, Miami – 26.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.6 APG
* G Kyrie Irving, Cleveland – 21.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.4 APG
* G Dwayne Wade, Miami – 18.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.7 APG
F/C Chris Bosh, Miami – 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG
G DeMar DeRozan, Toronto – 22.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.8 APG
C Roy Hibbert, Indiana – 12.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 APG
G Joe Johnson, Nets – 15.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG
F Paul Millsap, Atlanta – 17.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.9 APG
C Joakim Noah, Chicago – 11.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 4.2 APG
G John Wall, Washington – 20.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8.5 APG

Western Conference

* F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City – 31.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.3 APG
* F Blake Griffin, LA Clippers – 23.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.5 APG
* F Kevin Love, Minnesota – 25.6 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 4.0 APG
*+ G Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers – 13.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 6.3 APG
* Stephen Curry, Golden State – 24.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 9.1 APG
F/C LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – 24.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
F/C Anthony Davis, New Orleans – 20.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.4 APG
G James Harden, Houston – 23.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.4 APG
C Dwight Howard, Houston – 18.6 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.7 APG
G Damian Lillard, Portland – 20.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.8 APG
F Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas – 21.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.8 APG
G Tony Parker, San Antonio – 18.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 6.3 APG
G Chris Paul, LA Clippers – 19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 11.2 APG

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.

Could Brittney Griner survive in the NBA?

Image

brittney-griner-nbaIn 1979, Ann Meyers became the first and last woman to sign a contract with an NBA team. She inked a $50,000 no-cut clause contract with the Indiana Pacers, but, unfortunately, didn’t survive her three-day tryout.

Since that time, standout women basketball players have far more avenues to continue their playing careers. There are plenty of female European leagues along with the WNBA. And up until this week, the WNBA is pretty much where everybody expected 6’8″ Baylor Bears star Brittney Griner to be heading….that is, until Mark Cuban made some attention-seeking remarks about her.

Before a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Cuban claimed that he’d actually think about taking her in the 2013 NBA Draft. His statement went as follows:

If she is the best on the board, I will take her. I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.

She’d still have to make the team. I’m not going to carry her just to carry her. I don’t think, anyways. But I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her the opportunity.

brittney-griner-nba1Cuban went on to say that he thinks Griner would have plenty of marketing potential if she were to try out for his team. But is that where the discussion of Brittney Griner playing in the NBA ends, with marketing potential?

The Houston native has fascinated many basketball fans since YouTube videos surfaced of her throwing down two-handed dunks. Sure she wasn’t the first woman to dunk; however, Griner is the first known lady to be putting down two-handed slams with ease. She certainly lived up to expectations at Baylor too after racking up the following accolades:

– Led the Bears to the 2012 NCAA title and a 40-0 record
– Blocked 736 career shots, more than any college female or man
– Dunked a record 18 times, more than all other college women combined (15)
– Averaged 23.0 PPG or more for her last three seasons

Obviously Brittney Griner was a fantastic collegiate player – quite possible the best ever in women’s college hoops. This being said, it’s no wonder why the Phoenix Mercury are assuredly going to take her with the first pick overall in this year’s WNBA Draft. But is she good enough to transcend the women’s game and actually play in the NBA?

Brittney GrinerStarting with the positives, Griner has a huge wingspan (7’4″) and excellent timing, which easily explains her incredible shot blocking ability. She also developed a nice mid-range game while at Baylor and greatly improved her basketball IQ.

However, Griner weighs just 207 pounds, which at 6’8″ isn’t exactly the ideal NBA frame. Seeing as how she would probably be playing power forward in the NBA, Griner would regularly be competing against the likes of Blake Griffin (6’10”, 250 pounds), Paul Millsap (6’8″, 253 pounds), Zach Randolph (6’9″, 260 pounds) and David Lee (6’9″, 240 pounds). It’s hard to envision a scenario where she wouldn’t be constantly backed down by these guys and scored on at will.

Luckily we won’t ever have to see this scenario because Griner will be picked number one overall on April 15th. Cuban wouldn’t be able to draft her until June 27th, at which point he would have to purchase her rights from the Phoenix Mercury. And while Cuban may be an attention whore, he’ll likely be more focused on rebuilding a Dallas franchise that has spiraled downward following a 2011 championship season.

This being said, the hypotheticals involving Brittney Griner to the NBA are just something for the media to have a good time with. And if there ever is a female player who goes to the NBA, it’ll likely be a talented guard who doesn’t have to bump heads with 250 and 260-pound men in the paint.