Tonight, two of the Eastern Conference’s heavyweights will square off in the ATL. The Cavs, who are riding a four-game winning streak including a huge Christmas day road win against the Lakers, come into Philips Arena to face the up-and-coming Hawks.
This is the first meeting of the season between the two teams. They last met in the second round of last year’s playoffs, where the Cavs not only swept them, but defeated them by double digits in each game. The domination doesn’t stop there. In the regular season last year, the Cavs took down three of their four contests. The Cavs are also playing their best basketball of the year, winning nine of their last 10 games (five of which were on the road). They are 24-8 and just one game out of the top spot in the Conference.
The Hawks are also on a little streak. They have won eight of their last 10 and are 12-2 at home. At 21-8, the Hawks are in fourth place in the East and have been getting All-Star caliber years out of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. The Cavs, on the other hand have caught their stride since their slow start. As they proved on their recent road trip, they can win big games on the road and they can take their defense up another level.
Although this is an away game for the Cavs, they are favored to win. But don’t count out the Hawks. This is a statement game, and if the Hawks want to prove they belong in the conversation for the best team in the East, then they have to beat the best teams in the East. They already went into Boston’s home back in November and stole a game.
It won’t be easy for them, considering the Cavs have been known to lock down the Hawks. In their playoff series last season, Cleveland held Atlanta to under 80 ppg and under 40 percent shooting. This Hawks are a lot more confident this season. With new addition, Jamal Crawford, providing extra firing power and Smith playing his best ball of his career, don’t expect a repeat of last spring’s postseason.
On top of trying to shut down LeBron James, who has been on a tear as of late, the Hawks must really lock down Mo Williams. Williams tends to have huge games against the Hawks. If Smith can provide help off the weak side on James and Atlanta can keep Cleveland under 100 points (they are 4-7 when held to under 100 ppg), it’s possible the Hawks can come out with a win. Unfortunately, they caught this Cavs team at a bad time, so we don’t see that happening. Cleveland takes this one in a close 107-103 win.
What are your predictions for tonight’s game?