East Conference Finals are chalk as top-seeded Atlanta, a team no one expected to be here, hosts No. 2 Cleveland in Game 1 on Wednesday. Here are my player prop picks for the opener.
Let's get to the big injury question hanging over this series first and that's to Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. If you watched the Cavs-Bulls series, Irving was limping around for the final two games after tweaking a knee injury on top of already having a foot injury. He didn't play much in the clinching Game 6 although apparently could have; the Cavs didn't need him because the Bulls quit and the game was a blowout. Irving will play in Game 1 and the six days off should help him, but one tweak here or there and the Cavs could be in trouble because the Hawks are better at point guard than the Bulls with All-Star Jeff Teague and his backup, young Dennis Schroder, who has been called the German Rajon Rondo by some. If Irving is gimpy all series then the Cavs are in trouble. Then this series would be one transcendent superstar in LeBron James against a very good starting five (four All-Stars) in Atlanta but a team with no stars. With all respect to Atlanta, ABC is praying that Cleveland wins this series as the Hawks wouldn't exactly be a big ratings (or betting) draw in the Finals against either Golden State or Houston. Atlanta won three of four regular-season meetings with the Cavs, although LeBron missed one game.
Kyle Korver Props:
Total Made 3-point Shots -- 'Over/Under' 3.5
Total Points -- O/U 11.5
Will Korver Score More Than 22.5 Points -- No -1600, Yes +1800
Who will Record More Points in the Game -- J.R. Smith (-1.5) vs. Korver
Why am I starting a player props preview for Game 1 with Korver instead of LeBron James or Irving? Because I believe Korver NBA odds are quite tempting, he also is a key to this series. He was the most accurate 3-point shooter in the NBA during the regular season (minimum 120 attempts) in hitting 49.2 percent in earning his first All-Star berth. When Korver is hitting, he spreads the entire floor for Atlanta. And really all he can do is shoot 3-pointers (and free throws). Something has happened to him in the playoffs as Korver is hitting only 35 percent from long range. The final four games of the Wizards series: 6 points, 6 points, 3 points, 2 points. He made only three 2-point field goals in the entire series. Against the Cavs this regular season, Korver averaged only 7.8 points and shot 44.4 percent from long range. Cleveland does have the best 3-point defense in the playoffs but part of that is the Celtics and Bulls, the two teams the Cavs beat, aren't great from long range. Korver hasn't made more than two 3-pointers since Game 2 vs. the Wizards. He hasn't topped 22.5 points since scoring 24 on Jan. 17 in Chicago. Smith, the Cavaliers' top 3-point shooter, is averaging 12.8 points in these playoffs and had at least 12 in each game against the Bulls after being suspended the first two.
NBA Free Picks: 'Under' 3.5 3-pointers (-180) and 11.5 points, heck no on 22.5 and lean Smith.
Kyrie Irving Props:
Who will Record More Points in the Game -- Irving (-4.5) vs. Teague
Total points -- Irving 'Over/Under' 20
Total Rebounds and Assists -- O/U 8
Average Series Points per Game -- 'Over/Under' 19.0\
Irving was very hit or miss in the series against the Bulls, scoring 30, 25 and 21 points in three games and 12, 11 and six in the other three. He had two games shooting at least 56 percent from the field and two at 23.1 percent or worse. Two games with at least five assists and two with zero. When Irving was healthier in Round 1 against Boston, he averaged 23.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. During the regular season against the Hawks, he averaged 21.0 points, 6.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds. Teague averaged 15.9 points during the season and 15.3 in the playoffs. John Wall really shut him down in the first two games of the last round but Teague played better in the final four games, averaging 19.5 points. Teague missed one game vs. the Cavs during the season and averaged 14.7 points.
NBA Free Picks: Irving had trouble guarding Derrick Rose so I'm guessing he will Teague as well. So take Teague on the points, and 'under' the other three props for Irving.