Game: Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds: Hawks -2, Cavaliers +2
There was a point this season when the Cleveland Cavaliers were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference race. The injury bug hit and the Cavs went on a long slide that culminated with them sitting in eighth place. That resulted in Cleveland having to face Brooklyn in the first play-in game and now their season rests on a home game against the surging Atlanta Hawks.
That would be the same Atlanta Hawks team that beat Cleveland in three of four games during the regular season. The same Hawks team that has All-Star Trae Young who has been outstanding down the stretch.
Young is coming off a 24-point performance in their first play-in game. Atlanta blew out Charlotte winning by 29 points, 132-103, with Young playing 34 minutes. The Hawks are now scoring 120.8 points per game over their last ten. The Cleveland defense will be tested as they try to stop Young and the Hawks.
In the four head-to-head meetings this season, Cleveland held Atlanta to 95 points in the first game. In the final three, Atlanta scored at least 120 points and won them all. The Cavs have relied on their defense for most of the season. They still rank fifth in scoring defense allowing 105.8 points per game. Recently though, Cleveland has been giving up a lot of points.
Over their last ten games, Cleveland has allowed opponents an average of 113.3 points per game. That’s not an elite NBA defense. Part of the problem has been not having Jarrett Allen who has been out of the Cavs lineup for several weeks. Allen is listed as questionable for tonight. If he plays, the Cavs would have some additional rim protection and they could play with the lineup they like. Cleveland likes to play three bigs with the 6-10 Allen, 6-11 Evan Mobley, and 7-0 Laurri Markkanen on the floor together.
Whatever they do, the Cavs will have to find a way to slow down Atlanta. The Hawks are 8-2 in those last ten games. Their only losses were to Miami, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and Toronto, the No. 5 seed. Atlanta is also 8-2 ATS in its last ten games.
Cleveland has won just once in its last five games and the Cavs have not been good against the number. For the season, the Cavs were one of the better teams against the spread with a 44-36-3 ATS mark. Over their last 13 games though, Cleveland is just 4-9 ATS.
Both teams have trended Under recently. Five of the last six Hawks’ games have gone Under the total and four of the last six Cleveland games have done the same. Three of the four games this year went Over (all Atlanta wins) and 14 of the last 20 games in the series have resulted in the Over. The Hawks typically see totals above 230. The last three games in the series have averaged 239 points.