Where this a perfect world, the Cleveland Cavaliers would have today off. Last night, the Cavs came back from 22 down to beat the Boston Celtics on the road and escaped with a one-point win. Now, less than 24 hours later, the Cavs are in back home to take on the Hawks, a team that presents some interesting challenges for this Cavs team.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
Television: Fox Sports Ohio
Music: In The A - Big Boi featuring T.I. and Ludacris
Admittedly, it was hard to not pick an OutKast song for the Cavs' first game vs. Atlanta. But in recent memory, I can't think of a better song about Atlanta. Andre 3000 is notably missing, but we do get Big Boi, T.I. and Ludacris. And it's better than any 2 Chainz track of recent memory. It's also way to difficult to pick just one OutKast song.
As noted above, the Hawks are an interesting style matchup for the Cavs. That start in the front court, where the Hawks start Paul Millsap and Al Horford. The latter is one of the NBA's most underrated players, although he is still finding his footing after tearing a chest muscle last season. Millsap, on the other hand, is a bargain at $10.5 million a year and has develop into an effective 3-point shooter while also being an excellent rebounder. These two should really give the Cavs' main bigs - Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson - are stern test.
But the Hawks also present problems in other areas. At small forward, Atlanta starts Kyle Korver, the NBA's best 3-point shooter. At point guard, the Hawks have Jeff Teague, who gets craftier each year and have an overall well-rounded roster that matches up well with the Cavs. On offense, the Hawks are scoring 107 points per 100 possession - meaning this likely tired Cavs team could give up well over 100 points once again.
The Hawks might give the Cavs a test on the boards. As it stands, the Cavaliers are 20th in the league in rebounds per game at 40.5 per game. While it is still early, the Cavs figured to be an excellent rebounding team heading into the season. The Hawks are actually worse, as Atlanta is 23rd in the league at 39.9 per game. But when this team plays a Millsap/Horford frontline, it can give us an a good idea of where the Cavs are on with cleaning up the glass.
According to 82games.com. Millsap and Horford lineups pull down no worse than 46.5 percent of possible rebounds. Cleveland's Love and Thompson lineups have cleaned up over 60 percent of all possible rebounds, several of the Cavs' lineups aren't nearly as proficient. Also worth noting is that a lineup featuring Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, LeBron James, Shawn Marion and Love - a possible end of game lineup - only has pulled down 16.5 percent of all possible rebounds in a very, very small sample.
Let's monitor minutes, shall we? Through the Cavs' six games (i.e. before the Celtics game) LeBron was averaged over 40 minutes a game. On top of that, both Irving and Love were averaging over 38 minutes a game. Last night in Boston, both James and Irving played 41 minutes, while Love played 38. Again, it's still early in the season, but an obvious trend to watch here is how many minutes David Blatt is giving his three best players on a nightly basis. None of the players are old and need to take back-to-backs off, but if everything goes the Cavs' way, this will be a long season that extends well into June.
Again, the Cavs likely took a lot out of the tank last night to come back and beat a fairly bad Boston team. If tonight's game is close but Irving, Love and/or LeBron have played heavy minutes midway through the second half, does Blatt keep his foot on the gas pedal to pursuit of a win or does he give his stars a few extra minutes of rest? It's also worth noting here that the Cavs don't play against after this until Monday against the Denver Nuggets.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction: This is a tough game to gauge here. Until we see the Cavs on the floor, we won't really know how the players are feeling on the second night of a back-to-back. And although this Hawks team is solid, it is beatable. Assuming the Cavs aren't too gassed, I think Cleveland wins 105-101 after Blatt decides to lean on his stars again the fourth.