The Cavaliers are looking to make it three in a row as the travel into Atlanta to take on the Hawks. The Hawks are 6-3 at home this season while the Cavaliers are 1-9 on the road. Both teams are coming off impressive wins as the Cavaliers downed the streaking Nuggets, while the Hawks dealt the Clippers their second loss in a row.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (6-12) vs Atlanta Hawks (10-10)
When? 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Where? Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio/ NBA League Pass
If you can't at least rap the first verse of this song off the top of your head, know I think less of you as a person.
What to watch for the Cavaliers
Will the Cavaliers big men continue their strong play? It appears that the success of this incarnation of the Cavaliers feeds off of the success of their bigs. Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum have had two strong performances in a row and are looking to three-peat, while Anderson Varejao had a throw back performance against the Nuggets scoring 18 points and pulling down 13 rebounds off the bench. While Atlanta has the 10th best defense in terms of points allowed, they have struggled to secure rebounds and have one of their worst margins in the league. The Cavaliers front court will hopefully be able to expose this flaw and cause their defense a lot of problems in the halfcourt.
How will the Cavaliers starting unit continue to perform. Since CJ Miles has returned the Cavaliers seem to have found a balance in their rotation. The starting unit of Irving-Miles-Gee-Thompson-Bynum is averaging a plus/ minus rating of plus 6.5, which is a team best for a five man unit this year for the Cavaliers. There appears to be defined roles with this unit and having Waiters, Jack, Clark, Varejao and Bennett seems to provide a sufficient punch to compliment their starting unit. Dion Waiters has played well in his sixth man role so far this season. He has been able to handle the ball more and initiate the offense. While he struggled with his shot against the Nuggets going 2-8, he wasn't ever a ball stopper and kept the offense flowing. Having a balanced attack keeps the Cavs less predictable. While ideally Waiters would learn to play next to Kyrie Irving, if we're getting the most out of him in this role it's probably something we should continue going with for the time being.
Confidence is huge for a young team, over the past few games you get the sense that they feel they are turning a corner. There are still the same flaws as there has been since the start of the season, but as the team gets more comfortable and confident they will continue finding ways to win games and play to their strengths. I have the tendency to be an optimist, I think there's a legitimate chance for the Cavs to come away with three wins over this four games stretch against the Hawks, Clippers, Knicks and Magic. A win tonight goes a long way towards making that a reality.
What to watch for the Hawks:
Al Horford is one of the best big men in the game. He does everything well on the basketball court. It will be interesting to see if Mike Brown chooses to put Thompson on Horford as they match up well in terms of size and quickness, or if he chooses to deploy Thompson against Paul Millsap with his ability to stretch the floor.
The Cavaliers guards have a tendency to occasionally lose their man on the perimeter off the ball. They simply cannot afford to do this against the Hawks otherwise Kyle Korver is going to make them pay. He's looking to set the NBA record for most consecutive games with a made three point field goal. I'm sure Mike Brown has been preaching how important it is to stick with him ever since the final buzzer sounded against the Nuggets.
Jeff Teague has played very well this year for Atlanta. He's not the most dynamic point guard in the league, but he's certainly taken a big step forward in his development and has been one of the most pleasant surprises for the Hawks this season.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction
Cavs win 102-94