For the second night in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers are up against one of the NBA’s most unstoppable singular forces: Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks host the Cavs tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Hawks lead the season series 2–1, and that’s mostly thanks to Young, who averaged a scorching 38 points and 10 assists in two Atlanta wins.
This is most likely the last time these teams will match up this season. But something to think about: the Cavs are currently seventh in the East, and while they’re unlikely to slip any further, the Brooklyn Nets could loom in a seven-eight matchup. Should the Cavs lose that, there’s a chance they’d face the Hawks again with their season on the line. Fun stuff!
HOW TO WATCH
Where: State Farm Arena — Atlanta, Georgia
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Cavs +6
Opposing blog: Peachtree Hoops
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Caris LeVert / Lauri Markkanen / Moses Brown
Cavs injury report: Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger), Collin Sexton (OUT - knee), Dean Wade (OUT - knee) Evan Mobley (OUT - ankle), RJ Nembhard (OUT - two-way), Rajon Rondo (DOUBTFUL - ankle)
Expected Hawks starting lineup: Trae Young / Delon Wright / Kevin Huerter / Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot / Clint Capela
Hawks injury report: John Collins (OUT - foot), Sharife Cooper (OUT - two-way), Skylar Mays (OUT - non-covid illness) Danilo Gallinari (QUESTIONABLE - elbow), DeAndre Hunter (QUESTIONABLE - knee), Jalen Johnson (QUESTIONABLE - concussion)
Three things to watch
Late-game legs. The thing about the Cavaliers right now is that, well, there just aren’t many of them right now, and they’re tired. Monday’s win over the Orlando Magic required 36 minutes from Isaac Okoro, 40(!) from Darius Garland, and 32 from Kevin Love off the bench. The toll became obvious in the latter stages of the game; after hanging 60 in the first half, the Cavs mustered up just 46 points after the intermission. It happened again last night in Dallas; 67 in the first half, 45 in the second. Meanwhile, the Hawks just set a franchise record for points in a half. But hey, it was the first half, so maybe the Cavs can keep up!
A gaping hole in the paint. Story time: When I played basketball in middle school, every time an opposing player took a shot, my coach would scream bloody hell at us to “BOX OUT!!!!!!”, because his least favorite thing in the world was giving up offensive rebounds. It worked pretty well, I think, because after a few sprints, I got pretty good at grabbing boards.
If I were the Cavs, I would bring my middle school basketball coach to this game, because they’re up against two very good offensive rebounders in Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu. Winning the rebounding battle would be a tough proposition even with Allen and Mobley available. Without them…maybe Kevin Love has a vintage 30-30 game left in him?
A collision between two suns. The Cavaliers have stayed (somewhat) above water almost solely thanks to Darius Garland. Garland has maintained roughly a 29 percent usage rate since the turn of the calendar year; he’s practically been forced to become a one-man show. His Atlantan counterpart knows a little something about that—Garland still does less heavy lifting than Trae Young, whose season-long usage rate is right around 33 percent. Both players are at the center of their teams’ offensive universe. We could be in for an epic duel between two of the league’s brightest young stars.