The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Atlanta Hawks they were 8 point betting favorites and high spirits. Coming off two encouraging showings against the Raptors and Wolves, expectations were high as they took on the rebuilding Hawks.
Well, we all know how that worked out. The Cavs are still winless and head into this game two days after firing Tyronn Lue and Larry Drew stepping in as the “lead voice”.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (0-6) vs. Atlanta Hawks (2-4)
When? 7:00 p.m.
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Cavaliers injuries: Kevin Love (foot - OUT)
Hawks injuries: Justin Anderson (tibia fracture - OUT), John Collins (ankle - OUT), Alex Polythress (knee - OUT)
This game will be our first real sense of what the front office has envisioned for this roster. Lue was fired either for not playing the young guys or not being competitive, with the strongest indications pointing towards the former.
With Larry Drew stepping in without any commitment to the role as head coach, he likely will just carry out what the front office has in mind for the team. How dramatically different the rotation will be will help figure out exactly what the points of contention were between Lue and the front office.
The most obvious candidate for an expanded role is Collin Sexton, who will get a second shot at Trae Young after being demolished in the first match-up. But beyond that, it’s hard to figure out which young players the team would like to have prioritized. Especially with the absence of many true young prospects.
Keys to the game:
- Defend the rim. The Cavs gave little to no resistance in the first meeting of these two teams and were decimated by the roll man. That easy penetration into the paint has opened up three point barrage after three point barrage. Cleveland desperately needs to force teams to take tougher shots against them if they’re ever going to win a game.
- Point guard matchup. Trae Young torched the Cavs in their first matchup, something that just can’t occur if the Cavs are going to win. Sexton looked too excited by the matchup and struggled in a big way. For the Cavs to have a chance to win they’ll need to win this matchup or at least play it to a draw.
- Stick to the system. Isolation basketball and bad shots have hurt the Cavs ability to sustain a decent offense. While Lue might be gone, it’s probably unlikely that the team re-invented their offense and system in the last two days. It doesn’t need to be anything revolutionary, but some off ball movement and signs of a coherent offense would be a positive sign.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
If the Cavs can’t get a win against the Atlanta’s of the world, they will likely be worse than anybody could have predicted. But given how the season has started and the desire to go young, it’s hard to look at any game and pick the Cavs to come away with a win. With some of the players upset at the firing of Lue, I can’t see this as being a bounce-back game for the Cavs. Hawks win 125-116.