We won Game 1 of the Western Conf series backing Warrios vs. Spurs. We will continue to ride that thinking with our NBA pick, which has been responsible for many Game 1 victories in the past.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Atlanta Hawks visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night for the 1st game of their Round 2 series in the NBA Playoffs. In Atlanta's first playoff series, it took 6 games for the Hawks to dispatch Boston. The key victory was the final one in the series, when Atlanta broke through for a road win, after losing Games 3 and 4 on Boston's home court. Cleveland kept alive LeBron James Round 1 winning streak, when they swept Detroit, after having lost 3 of 4 to the Pistons in the regular season.
This is a rematch of the Conference Finals from last year, when James dominated Atlanta, averaging 30 PPG, 11 RBG and 9 assists in the 4-game sweep. It was the most dominant statistical line in post-season history. The Cleveland dominance has carried over to this season with 3 victories, including a pair on this floor by 14 and 12 points. Cleveland is well-rested for this game with 6 days off to enter at near 100% health.
The Hawks gained confidence when they closed out the series vs. Boston on the road. They believe their experience last season against Cleveland will serve them well. The loquacious Kent Bazemore has expressed his distaste for King James since before he came into the league. He tried to prove his point physically against LeBron in last year's playoff losses, but clearly to no avail! As much as Bazemore would like to believe he can stop James that is most likely not going to happen.
If the Hawks are to be competitive in this series, it will be because of their defensive improvement. It would not be a coincidence that improvement is a direct function of HC Budenholzer, who spent many years on the San Antonio staff. This season, Atlanta held opponents to only 43% shooting per game and just 99 PPG (each among the best in the league).
The issue with backing Cleveland is their overconfidence after 7 consecutive victories vs. the Hawks in the last 2 years, while now knowing that Love and Irving are at full strength against an opponent James virtually beat singlehandedly in the playoffs last year. In Game 1, however, the dominance factor is far more likely to prevail. I invite you to put the NBA odds in your favor and join me in my NBA pick on the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight.
Free NBA Pick: Cavaliers 7.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage