The Houston Rockets gave the Golden State Warriors quite the scare, but in the end they still dropped their second game of the Western Conference Finals and handed the Warriors a commanding 2-0 lead. We saw the win coming for Golden State, and with Dwight Howard in we also liked the Rockets to beat the spread. They did and Golden State won, so our NBA picks move up to 42-20 during the NBA playoffs.
Things get a little more difficult tonight, as this Hawks/Cavs series is tough to gauge. Cleveland shocked us a bit by going into Atlanta and winning game one, but now they could be without Kyrie Irving in game two. The Cavs would actually be wise to rest their star point guard, as they already have a 1-0 edge and they’ll need him throughout this series and if they reach the NBA Finals. Keep tabs on that, and read on for a breakdown of tonight’s matchup.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2) @ Atlanta Hawks (1) on TNT at 8:30 pm ET
As big as the potential absence of Kyrie Irving is for the Cavs, DeMarre Carroll’s knee injury might be an even bigger deal for the Hawks. Carroll reportedly suffered a hyper-extension of his knee in game one and was seen sporting a brace at shoot around on Friday morning. That could mean he still gets to play, but he won’t be at 100% even if he does. That’s a big hit to the Hawks, both offensively and defensively. Carroll slashes well, plays great defense and can knock down three’s. More importantly, if he’s out or not quite himself, Cleveland can focus on stopping Jeff Teague and the other top Hawks options.
On paper, Irving and Carroll probably wash each other out and the Hawks have the edge because they’re at home with their backs against the wall. Their defense actually wasn’t bad in the second half in game one, but they couldn’t match the Cavs on offense. That needs to change tonight, or else this series is probably headed for a sweep. I tend to think the Hawks just let one get away from them and they’re better than they’ve showed in general throughout these playoffs. After all, they’ve been getting off to slow starts in every series, so they just need to do as they always have done – respond.
That should mean a monumental effort from big men Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Millsap actually played really good defense on LeBron James and he’ll surely stick on him going forward. Horford was weak in game one and against Timofey Mozgov, that’s just unacceptable. I like for him to step up and the key could be Kyle Korver, who has really been absent for about seven games now. If Irving is out, the Hawks really only need to worry about LeBron James and I sincerely doubt J.R. Smith is going to drop another eight trey bombs on ATL. The Hawks are narrow -1.5 favorites at home and with the magnitude of this game, I like that spread and the Hawks straight up, as well. Both of these teams are capable of playing good defense and they’re a little short-handed/hindered offensively, so I’d also bet against the Total (196).
Pick: Hawks 97, Cavs 92