The Cleveland Cavaliers are just one game away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. They will have a chance to book that return appearance this Tuesday (8:30pm ET on TNT), as the team faces the Atlanta Hawks in game four, looking for the Eastern Conference series sweep.
The series between the Hawks and Cavaliers kicked off on Wednesday in Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. This was the first meeting of the two teams in the playoffs this year but far from the beginning of the rivalry. This season saw the teams face off four times, the first three of which were won by the Hawks.
Atlanta entered the series as the East’s top team. Following a tough set against the Washington Wizards which saw the Hawks emerge victorious in six, Atlanta was prepared for the tough test that was the Cavaliers. Matched up against LeBron James’ team would be no easy task but given the injuries to both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the healthy Hawks began the series with a good chance to advance to the NBA Finals.
But then the first game happened, which the Cavs won by a score of 97-89. And then the second, another home game which the visitors stole by 12 points. James’ team was the dominant force as guys like Iman Shumpert (pictured) and JR Smith stepped up, showcasing the great depth Cleveland has. Additionally, top Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver left the second game with a severe ankle injury. He’s expected to miss the remainder of the playoffs, which for Atlanta shouldn’t be too much longer.
Game three saw the Hawks put up a great effort, even after Al Horford was ejected as the result of a flagrant two foul. Jeff Teague held the ball for the last possession in regulation but the team’s scoring woes continued. Missed threes ultimately cost the Hawks as Cleveland, on the back of yet another triple double from James, won in overtime, 114 to 111.
Get out the Brooms?
On Monday, the Golden State Warriors will go for the Western Conference Finals sweep over the Houston Rockets. Just like the Cavaliers, the Warriors have looked the part. They have played like the better team and it is only a matter of time until they meet the Cavaliers for the championship.
But pulling off a sweep is no easy task, even if one team looks as overmatched as both the Rockets and Hawks have looked. No one wants to go down like that and throughout playoff history, few teams have. Since the beginning of the century, only three times have the Conference Finals ended in a sweep. Never has it happened that both Eastern and Western Finals have been swept in the same season.
That little bit of history right there is enough reason to bet against a sweep for at least one of these series. But which is less likely to end with the brooms and which isn’t?
My money would be on the Cavs getting the sweep. Despite the way the last game ended for both teams, a close overtime one in the East and a blowout in the West, Houston is more likely to steal one from the Warriors than Atlanta is from the Hawks. Consider the facts.
Cleveland goes for the sweep at home, a place where the team is 27-8 since the 2006-07 postseason, and 5-1 this year. Golden State however has to get past a tough Rockets team on the road. It is likely Houston manages to steal one of the two. Also, Cleveland is playing against a now banged up Hawks team. DeMarre Carroll, the best defender against James has been playing through an injury and as I mentioned, Korver is out indefinitely. The Hawks don’t have one single superstar so any loss in scoring is a big deal. Meanwhile, the Cavs have adjusted to life without Irving and Love. James has shouldered the burden and the bench has really stepped up.
That said, if there does happen to be a sweep in the Conference Finals, it’s likely that distinction belongs to the Cavaliers.
Hawks at Cavaliers Game 4 Betting Picks
It all comes down to this. For the Hawks, it was a triumphant season. The team placed four on the All Star squad and over performed almost all expectations. Their playoff run was fun while it lasted and it showed that the East is more than just a two team race between the Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls. The Hawks will be around to cause trouble in the East for the foreseeable future, but 2015 is not their year.
The Cavaliers are just too tough. James alone has the experience, the talent, the determination to will his team to the Finals. So far, he’s done exactly that. As good as the Hawks were, they just didn’t match up well against Cleveland, who proved that the playoffs and the regular season are two vastly different beasts.
- All that said, take the Cavaliers to pull off the sweep en route to the powerhouse collision with Golden State in the NBA Finals. Expect James to continue his high volume of scoring, ultimately just being too much for the battered Hawks to handle. Bet on the Cavaliers -8.5pts on the spread for game 4 @ -110 betting odds with BetOnline Sportsbook.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.