The Atlanta Hawks couldn't beat the Cleveland Cavaliers or the NBA odds at home. Sunday's Game 3 in Cleveland doesn't look like it'll turn out any differently.
Jason’s record as of May 22: 78-80-5 ATS, 18-19 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
Well, so much for the Atlanta Hawks. They had Game 2 of their Eastern Conference final against the Cleveland Cavaliers handed to them on a platter; DeMarre Carroll was able to play for the Hawks, while Kyrie Irving had to sit out for the Cavaliers. But Carroll wasn't quite up to speed, and the Cavs ended up winning 94-82 as 3.5-point road dogs. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice... shame on you again.
We try not to be results-oriented around here. But the events from Game 2 have convinced us to switch our basketball pick for Sunday's Game 3 (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT). It isn't so much that the Hawks lost – it's the way they lost, and the injuries they suffered in the process. Icy Hot will not save them. Cleveland goes into Sunday's contest as a fat 8.5-point home favorite on the NBA odds board, with our early consensus reports showing 55 percent of bettors on the Cavs.
We don't have definitive word on their status as we go to press, but both Al Horford (21.4 PER) and Kyle Korver (14.8 PER) were hurt in Friday's loss. The Korver injury appears more serious; he sprained his right ankle late in the third quarter, and while the X-rays came up negative, Korver was seen on crutches afterward. Horford looks more likely to play Sunday after getting whacked in the right knee on multiple occasions.
Meanwhile, Carroll is expected to play in Game 3 after logging 34 minutes on Friday. But he'll have to be healthier if Atlanta's going to have any prayer of getting back into this series. LeBron James (25.9 PER) had a decidedly more efficient game with Carroll at less than 100 percent. James still needed 22 field-goal attempts to reach 30 points, but he also dished out 11 assists and was in general command throughout the evening.
With Irving (21.5 PER) missing the game because of his balky left knee, it was up to Cleveland's shooters to give James the support he needed. Iman Shumpert (11.1 PER) was the best of them on this occasion, nailing four of his six trey attempts and posting a team-high plus-27. James Jones (11.1 PER) also had a nice game off the bench, shooting 3-of-5 from the perimeter. J.R. Smith (14.5 PER) and Matthew Dellavedova (8.5 PER) were less effective, but they didn't have to be on this day.
Jenkins Environment Variables
We don't know if Irving's going to play in Game 3, but given the way the Hawks performed Friday night, anything Cleveland gets from its All-Star point guard might be gravy. Atlanta's star pivot, Jeff Teague (20.6 PER), has been playing tentative basketball, and the vaunted Hawks shooters went a combined 6-of-26 (23.1 percent) from long range in Game 2. Ugly.
Taking Korver (49.2 percent from downtown) out of the equation wouldn't help matters much. Not that he's been having the greatest postseason – Korver is down to 35.5 percent – but without his ability to space the floor, Atlanta's game becomes a lot more one-dimensional. Perhaps John Jenkins (15.9 PER, 40.4 3P%) can step up and hit some threes. But we've only seen Jenkins in limited minutes this year, and this is a critical game in Atlanta's season.
It isn't all doom and gloom for the Hawks. If their injured players can heal up reasonably well for Sunday, particularly Carroll, they've still got enough talent and depth to get the job done – especially if Irving misses another game for Cleveland. That's too many “if” variables for our taste. We're switching to the Cavs, and we'll revisit the situation for Game 4 after the next round of casualties has been added up.