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NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers vs. Hawks Game 4 previewm

The Cavs look to maintain their perfect playoff record and advance to their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals in Game 4.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers looked pretty vulnerable throughout the regular season, never seeming to really get on a consistent roll. Since the playoffs started, however, they've pretty much been firing on all cylinders. The Cavs have the best offense in the playoffs so far at 118.7 points/ per 100 possessions, 6.1 points better than the next best playoff team. Only the Spurs and Warriors have better net ratings so far. They all but literally pulled out a flamethrower on the Hawks, setting the playoff three-point record. And better yet, the Cavs are the only undefeated team left in the playoffs, having swept the Pistons and now having a chance to do the same to the Hawks tonight.

If the Cavs can hit the turbo boosters again on Atlanta, they'll be sitting pretty in their second consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. As a bonus, they'll have another week to rest ahead of what looks like a very tight Miami Heat vs, Toronto Raptors series. Let's hope they can pull it off.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks

When: May 8th at 3:30 p.m.

Where: Phillips Arena - Atlanta, Georgia


Enemy Blog: Peachtree Hoops

Music: Streetlight Manifesto - "Moment of Silence"

Things to Watch for

  • The Celtics series from last year has probably broken me. Game 4 of last year's first round matchup with the Celtics was such a broken, unwatchable, shambolic contest even before we get to Kevin Love's injury and J.R. Smith's suspension. Now, every time a team gets to a Game 4 up 3-0, there's not much else I look for besides everyone arriving to the end of the game safe, healthy, and not suspended. The overarching theme of tonight, win or loss - NO ONE DO ANYTHING STUPID.
  • The Hawks got weird in Game 3, mixing several things up to attempt to throw the Cavs off. Several worked (Kyle Korver hit five threes after moving to the bench, Kris Humphries was +20), but several more didn't (Thabo Sefolosha "held" LeBron to 24 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, Paul Millsap couldn't handle Channing Frye). I'd expect the Hawks will try to mix things up more in Game 4, trying desperately to claw their way to a Game 5. Could we see more Dennis Schroder with the first unit? More minutes for Humphries? A KIRK HINRICH SIGHTING? Anything is possible.
  • Channing Frye's explosion in Game 3 (27 points on 10-13 shooting) was incredible, and he displayed exactly why the Cavs essentially traded Anderson Varejao for him at the trade deadline. Frye didn't play much against Detroit, which had a lot to do with matchups, but he's been excellent in the Atlanta series. His presence lets the Cavs move to small-ball effectively and stretch an already panicked Hawks defense oits limits. Frye should get more time going forward against either squad the Cavs could face, as the spacing he provides will give the Heat's plodding pick-and-roll defense and the Raptors' read and react scheme fits.
  • Kyrie Irving rebounded from a very shaky first half to help the Cavs rack up 14 straight points in the fourth quarter. He's had an up-and-down series, looking very solid for stretches as the Cavs offense has been humming, but struggling occasionally with turnovers and suffering momentary defensive lapses. He hasn't been bad (70 percent from three, after all), but of the 'Big Three', he's had the least success this series. Irving going for 40 in the elimination game would be a great exclamation point, and set the table for the next series, as he potentially will have either his biggest test of the playoffs so far (Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph) or present a massive defensive mismatch (Goran Dragic).
  • Again, moral of this game: NO ONE DO ANYTHING STUPID.

Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction

The Hawks have tried playing their style, tried complaining, and tried mixing things up in crazy fashion. None has worked, as the Cavs have had a double-digit lead for a majority of each game in this series. In Game 4, I can't see how things reverse course, barring injury or the Cavs completely coasting. They are perfectly capable of the latter, but I don't see that happening this time around. Cavs 107, Hawks 99.