2015 NBA Playoffs Picks: How to Beat the Atlanta Hawks

Kevin Stott

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 12:48 AM GMT

The Hawks have the most balanced offensive Starting 5’s of all teams in the NBA Playoffs, so for the Cleveland Cavaliers—the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed—to knock them off in their Best-of-7 Finals series—which will begin on Wednesday in Atlanta—LeBron & Co. may have to try to outgun the Southeast Division champions. The NBA odds favor the Cavaliers, but what will be Cleveland’s best approach to trying to beat the top seed and make it on to the NBA Finals?

Introduction
On Wednesday night in Philips Arena in Atlanta when the No. 1 seed Atlanta Hawks and the No. 2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers tip off the Eastern Conference Finals (TNT, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT), the higher seed will go off as the prohibitive Odds underdogs (+190, BetVictor) despite having the Homecourt advantage in their best-of-7 (2-2-1-1-1) series, having the more consistent and familiar starting unit and being the healthier of the two two teams. What the Hawks don’t have though, is superstar LeBron James and the expectations of oddsmakers and the Common Fan who know darn well that the Cavaliers should be favored to win the Eastern Conference Finals and have been expected to meet the Western Conference Finals’ presumed winner, the Golden State Warriors and NBA Regular Season MVP Stephen Curry in some kind of dream-like NBA Finals (June 4) to be played on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver-approved Marshmallow Clouds with the two Gunslingers, Sheriff James and Marshall Curry, meeting in a Showdown at High Noon on Main Street with the whole town (11 people) watching like it was just another day in the Wild, Wild West.

The NBA odds in some sportsbooks (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Mirage, SIA, Station Casinos) have the host Hawks here slight -1 favorites (Pinnacle: Hawks -1½) in their Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 opener on Wednesday night, with the Total (Points) set at 197 (Pinnacle) and the Moneyline odds for the game seeing Atlanta priced as -113 favorites with the Central Division-champion Cavaliers slightest +102 underdogs (Pinnacle). Poom poom. Before thinking about some potential ways that the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks can upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in these Eastern Conference Finals and make it to those aforementioned NBA Finals where every kid shooting in his driveway dreams of playing some day, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference Series odds for this matchup as well as the best NBA Finals, NBA Finals MVP and and Series Final Scores marketplace odds from both the Hawks and the Cavaliers perspective.

 

Eastern Conference Finals Series, NBA Finals and Finals MVP Odds (Monday)
Best Series Price for Hawks: Hawks +190 (BetVictor)

Best Series Price for Cavaliers (Oddschecker): Cavaliers -200 (William Hill)

Correct Series Final Odds (bet365): Cavaliers 4-0 +700, Cavaliers 4-1 +400, Cavaliers 4-2 +800, Cavaliers 4-3 +800; Hawks 4-0 +2500 (25/1), Hawks 4-1 +1000, Hawks 4-2 +800, Hawks 4-3 +500.

Best NBA Finals Odds for Hawks: Hawks +900 (SkySports, Totesport, Boylesports, Sportingbet, William Hill, Stan James)

Best NBA Finals Odds for Cavaliers: Cavaliers +250 (bet365, BetVictor)

Best NBA Finals MVP Odds Hawks: Paul Millsap +4000 (Ladbrokes), Jeff Teague +4000 (Ladbrokes), Al Horford +5000 (Ladbrokes), Kyle Korver +10,000 (Ladbrokes), DeMarre Carroll +15,000 (Paddy Power).

Best NBA Finals MVP Odds Cavaliers: LeBron James +300 (Paddy Power), Kyrie Irving +2000 (Ladbrokes, 888sport); JR Smith +10,000 (Paddy Power, Ladbrokes), Timofey Mozgov +50,000 (Ladbrokes).

>Regular Season Season Series: Hawks 3-1 SU, Hawks 3-1 ATS, Overs 3-1.

 

How to Try to Slow Down and Defeat the Atlanta Hawks
Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach David Blatt and his Central Division-winning team swept the sub-.500 Boston Celtics in Round 1 (4-0) and then sent Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls packing in Round 2 (4-2) on Thursday night in Chicago, rallying from a 2-1 series deficit to advance to these Eastern Conference Finals. With its extremely balanced and talented Starting 5 of Center Al Horford (15.0 ppg. 7.4 rpg), Forward Paul Millsap (17.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Forward DeMarre Carroll (12.1 ppg, 5.2 apg), Shooting Guard Kyle Korver (12.3 ppg, 50.3% 3’s) and Point Guard Jeff Teague (16.3 ppg, 7.0 apg), Atlanta—the only team in the NBA Finals MVP marketplace (for sportsbooks listed on Oddschecker) which can boast all five of its starters with odds posted to win—can get scoring from everywhere and create matchup problems because of that Offensive reality (double-digit average scorers at all five starting spots). Cleveland will have to make sure that Horford (6-10), Carroll (6-8) and Millsap (6-8) don’t dominate and Create A Constant Presence Down Low, so Cavaliers Bigs Timofey Mozgov (7-1), injured Kevin Love-PF-fill-in Tristan Thompson (6-9) and King James (6-8) himself will all probably have to play a strong, physical series’ in the frontcourt against Atlanta, and at least Cleveland does have the slight size advantage. But, in getting into and trying to make the Eastern Conference Finals a very physical series, the Cavaliers run the risk of aggravating the Knee and Foot Injuries starting PG Kyrie Irving is still trying to totally recover from, and, with the aforementioned Love already Out For the Season and his replacement, Thompson also nursing a shoulder injury of his own, maybe just Trying To Simply Outscore The Hawks with new SGs JR Smith (Knicks) and Iman Shumpert (Knicks), a hobbled Irving, Matthew Dellavedova and, of course, superman James may end up being the safer of the two routes (Soft vs. Hard). Two other ways Cleveland (and a potential NBA Finals team from the Western Conference) may be able to beat Atlanta is to work hard early on (Quarters 1 and 2) on trying to get the Hawks Into Foul Trouble, thus forcing them to their milktoast bench and, Defensively, Keeping Someone In Hawks’ starting SG Kyle Korver’s face, probably a role primarily for Smith, but also for Irving and LeBron on switch-offs and double teams. Not letting Korver get off to a hot start (and confident) from 3-Pointland will be huge for the duration of this series, and doing so will force Atlanta to have to work that much harder for its precious points. And, making sure that all five parts—Horford, Carroll, Millsap, Korver and especially floor general Teague—aren’t humming all at once will also be important for the Cavaliers and semi-Head Coach Blatt. Stopping a combination of, say, Millsap and Korver, Carroll and Korver, Horford and Teague or maybe Carroll and Korver in any single game would be a great recipe to limiting the Hawks point production. This team has no real Superstar though, and recent, relvant NBA History teaches us that only teams with a real superstar—Cavaliers (LeBron James), Warriors (Stephen Curry), Houston Rockets (James Harden)—usually get to, and ultimately win the NBA Finals each season. So, letting Atlanta find a way to beat itself by simply not having that Go-To Guy at the critical moment(s) may also be something that the Cavaliers (accidentally) end up see happening in this series. Time will tell and skunk will smell.

 

Conclusions
Atlanta won the Regular Season series (3-1 SU and 3-1 ATS), proved it can win at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland this season and has done exactly what it has needed to so far in these NBA Playoffs to get to this point to dance with the team it knew it might have to dance with—the Cleveland Cavaliers. Luckily for the Hawks, who will have (and will need to try to protect) the valuable Homecourt Advantage here, are the realities that Love is Out and Irving is hobbled heading in here, so, who could ask for anything more? And with just 6 Losses at Home in Philips Arena during the Regular Season, playing in Atlanta will be no easy feat for Cleveland and LeBron James. But those who place NBA picks know that the pressure of not quickly (between Wednesday and the weekend) losing that precious Homecourt Advantage it worked so hard by winning both Games 1 (Wednesday) and 2 (Friday; TNT, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m PT) will be immense and expect Atlanta to fall in at least one of those first two Home games.

As talked about in our previous ‘How To Beat the Cleveland Cavaliers’ piece here at Sportsbook Review, General Manager Danny Ferry and Cavaliers Management were Wise enough to trade for starting Center Timofey Mozgov mid-season, get SGs JR Smith (11.3 ppg) and Iman Shumpert (10.4 ppg) from the New York Knicks and were prudent enough to take a chances on an undrafted guy like guard Matthew Dellavedova (6.0 ppg) and the aforementioned Thompson (8.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg), who has been absolutely brilliant so far in his stead of Love in this NBA postseason. In short, the Bench Depth and its scoring from guys like the aforementioned Shumpert an Dellavedova as well as grizzled veterans like James Jones, Kendrick Perkins, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller. The reason guys like those last four are playing and even have spots and roles on NBA teams in 2015 is because they still have something valuable to offer to their teams in terms of Bench Scoring and Minutes at this critical juncture of the season, where minutes and relative experience matter the most. Despite the Injury concerns, expect Cleveland’s Bench to help get them over the hump in an entertaining and hard-fought, 6- or 7-game against the East’s No. 1-seeded Hawks.

Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers Moneyline +102 (Pinnacle)