The Atlanta Hawks entered the Eastern Conference Finals as the top seed with home court advantage. They enter Cleveland banged up and with their backs against the wall, down 2-0. Atlanta gave away their home court edge with two losses to start this series, and also lost sharpshooter Kyle Korver (ankle) in the process. With DeMarre Carroll also not 100% and the Hawks in general not playing their usual game, the East’s best team suddenly is on the ropes. The question, of course, is if they’ll fight back and extend this series tonight, or if they’ll get one step closer to getting swept.
Let’s break down tonight’s game three matchup and see which team you should roll with in NBA betting:
Atlanta Hawks (1) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (2) on TNT at 8:30 pm ET
A healthy Hawks squad could march into Cleveland, revert to their team-first style of offense and defense and hand the Cavs a home loss of their own. But they’re down a key offensive piece in Korver, Carroll isn’t himself and the Cavs don’t really seem like they can be stopped. Now the series has shifted to Quicken Loans Arena, where it’s extremely doubtful the Cavs suddenly lose their footing.
LeBron James isn’t the only problem for the Hawks, and that’s the scary part. Atlanta dropped a second straight game at home in game two, and Kyrie Irving didn’t even play. Worse yet, it really wasn’t even close. Atlanta’s defense hasn’t been as great as it was during the regular season, and largely due to their style changing completely. Instead of rotating to open shooters without hesitation, Atlanta is paying way too much attention to what James does. They’ll close on him and let Cleveland shooters kill them from the outside. It’s happened two games in a row on their home floor, and there is little to suggest it changes now.
On top of all of that, the Hawks also haven’t provided much of a punch offensively, and that was before Korver went down for the count. Using far too much dribbling and penetration with a lack of purpose, the Hawks appear to be completely different than they were during the regular season. The unraveling should continue tonight in Cleveland where the Cavs are heavy -9 favorites. I actually like the Hawks against the spread in this one, as I see them having more fight than caving when facing a disastrous 3-0 hole. The Cavs should squeak it out in the end, though, inching ever closer to a sweep.
Pick: Cavs 106, Hawks 102