The Cleveland Cavaliers got back to their winning ways on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks and today's game vs. the Atlanta Hawks marks a step up in competition. For the season, the Hawks are 9-5 on the season, third in the Eastern Conference and, despite a recent three-game losing streak, are one of the East's best teams.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, NBA League Pass
How to watch: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy Blog: Peachtree Hoops
Music: Big Beast - KIller Mike
Keys to the game
- Kent Bazemore will miss tonight's game and Jeff Teague is questionable, meaning Atlanta won't quiet be at full strength. The Hawks, of course, are a little different this year without DeMarre Carroll and Bazemore has been a key part of their adjustment.
- Teague is the bigger loss for the Hawks and they've lost two of the three games they've played without him this season. In his place, they'll start Dennis Schroeder, who is averaging 13.7 points and 8.3 assists starting in his place. Schroeder changes what the Hawks do; he's more of a passer than Teague and that puts more emphasis on Al Horford and Paul Millsap to score.
- This is where the Cavs' injuries become a factor. Matthew Dellavedova will start in place of Mo Williams, who is missing his second straight game with soreness in his right leg. This isn't too big of a deal, but how the Cavs handle backup point guard minutes is worth watching. Jared Cunningham handled the role Thursday and it should be interesting to see if that's the path the Cavs go with this time around.
- Timofey Mozgov's absence is one is more problematic for the Cavs. Tristan Thompson should get the start at center and it probably means we'll see more Anderson Varejao off the bench. Atlanta, who have Tiago Splitter as their third big, probably have an advantage over the Cavs up front.
- One tactical decision that is worth watching: who does Kevin Love defend to start the game?
- LeBron has historically had some of his best games against the Hawks and in the playoffs last year, averaged 30.3 points and was the main reason why the Cavs swept the Hawks. Without Carroll and Bazemore, how the Hawks defend LeBron will be worth watching. Thabo Sefolosha will probably defend LeBron quite a bit, but it's unclear who else Atlanta will use.
- One interesting option: Millsap. Atlanta did this against the Cavs in the playoffs and Millsap did well considering. He's physical enough to make driving the lane hard for LeBron and that in itself has value. Against the Cavs' starting five, however, that means sliding a wing onto Thompson, who will crash the boards over and over and over again. Atlanta could also start a big lineup with Millsap at the three, which they did Tuesday in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
This game should be close and even with the Hawks' injuries, give the Cavs their first real look at how the Hawks are different this year vs. last. Let's go Cavs 101, Hawks 98.