The Cleveland Cavaliers enter Atlanta on the second night of a back-to-back, looking to get back on track after a loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Hawks are 29-30, making them an ideal target for the 38-24 Cavaliers.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (38-24) versus Atlanta Hawks (29-30)
Where: State Farm Arena - Atlanta, GA
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio
Spread: Cavs +1
Opposing Blog: Peach Tree Hoops
Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs’ injury report: Cedi Osman (QUESTIONABLE - back), Dylan Windler (OUT - G League assignment), Mamadi Diakite (OUT - G League assignment), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League assignment)
Hawks’ expected starting lineup: Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, Saddiq Bey, Clint Capela
Hawks/ injury report: John Collins (OUT - concussion protocol), Tyrese Martin (OUT - G League assignment), Donovan Williams (OUT - G League assignment)
What to watch for
Evan Mobley’s offensive development
The Cavs have been banking on some offensive development from their 21-year-old defensive star. Evan Mobley has been doing exactly that since late January, averaging 20.1 points over his last 15 games.
Mobley was red-hot against the Nuggets and the two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokić. He poured in 31 points on just 19 field goal attempts and was beating opponents off the dribble for some breathtaking dunks.
The path to becoming a scorer hasn’t been easy for Mobley. He’s buried in this department by elite shot creators such as Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. But Mobley has taken full advantage of his opportunities this season, finishing shots at the rim in the 88th percentile this season.
Continued growth from Mobley will be key to the Cavaliers’ playoff run. Entering a game against the 21st-ranked defense is another chance for Mobley to shine.
Building momentum on the road
The Cavaliers haven’t been so great when they aren’t in Cleveland. They hold a 25-7 record at home and just 13-17 on the road. At times, it has felt like this team is disastrous away from home, with their worst stretches of the season coming during road trips.
But it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for a team to struggle on the road – and things actually aren’t as bad as they seem for Cleveland.
Despite their record, the Cavaliers hold the second-best net rating (2.4) and 10th-best offensive rating (113.9) among road teams. While the point differential is worse on the road, the rankings among home and road teams is actually higher as Cleveland ranks fourth in home net rating (8.5) and 12th in home offensive rating (116.2).
Nonetheless, the most important thing is getting the win, and they just haven’t done that on the road at the same rate as other contending teams. Cleveland is 11th in road-win percentage and will need to be better if they plan on making it out of the first round of the playoffs. With a game against a lesser team in Atlanta, the Cavs can start trending in the right direction.
Defending Trae Young
A familiar foe, Young has had plenty of success against the Cavaliers. Most recently in last season’s Play-In Tournament, when he sent them packing behind a 38-point explosion.
However, Young is just 6-7 against Cleveland for his career. And though he averages 26.9 points against them, the Cavs have proven they can make life difficult for Trae. In their last meeting, the Cavs held Young to 1-7 shooting from deep and forced him into six turnovers.
The issue? Young is a master at getting to the free throw line. Even when Cleveland is successful in deterring his shots, Young has been able to bait defenders into fouling him. This has allowed him to overcome poor shooting nights by racking up easy points at the line.
The key to stopping Young in this game will be limiting his momentum. He’s had numerous slow starts against Cleveland – only to explode in the second half after finding his touch from the free throw line. Take his performance in the Play-In game, where he began 3-11 from the field with zero free throw attempts, before getting to the line nine times and shooting 10-14 in the second half.
If the Cavaliers want to secure their first win after the All-Star break, they’ll have to defend Trae Young without fouling him – a daunting task.