#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #1 Cleveland Cavaliers Series Preview

     Jeff Teague drives against Kyrie Irving (credit:wmbfnews.com                                         
The Hawks and Cavaliers look to battle in the Conference Semis starting on this evening. The Hawks are coming off a 1st round win against the Boston Celtics in 6 games. The first 2 games went to Atlanta and it looked like series would be over sooner than many thought. The Celtics came back and took their 2 games at home including an emotional OT win which tied the series 2-2. The Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart duo helped the Celtics find their groove and also some momentum for the rest of the series. The Hawks re-grouped and had a new game plan: double team Isaiah Thomas and let other players on the team make plays. The plan seemed to work and the Hawks went on to win the next two games, both in blowouts.

                               LeBron James goes up for a layup against Andre Drummond (credit: comunitee.com)

The Cleveland Cavaliers had a easy way to the 2nd round as they swept the Detroit Pistons. The games were relatively close until the 4th quarter, where the Cavs took off. The Pistons battled hard and tried to get in LeBron’s head most of the time, specifically Marcus Morris and rookie Stanley Johnson. That didn’t slow him down, as he had a stellar series. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also had great performances in the series, and they plan to continue this play against the Hawks.


                                 Kyle Korver grimacing in pain during the 2015 playoffs (Credit: sbnation)

These two teams faced each other last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Hawks were swept. Both teams had major injuries when they played last season. Kevin Love was out with a dislocated shoulder and Kyrie Irving was in and out with a knee injury. The Hawks were missing Thabo Sefolosha with a broken leg, and Demarre Carroll and Kyle Korver suffered injuries during the series, and Al, Millsap and Teague were all hobbled despite not missing any actual games. Both teams plan on having all their players available heading into the 2nd round.

                           LeBron James tries to poke the ball away from Kent Bazemore (credit:theneeds.com)        

The main key for the Hawks for this series is stopping LeBron James. Last year in the Conference Finals and leading into this season, LeBron had his way against this team. Kent Bazemore, who had a great series against the Celtics, will have to do his best containing James, and also make him work on the defensive side of the ball. Thabo Sefolosha will also have a shot at guarding LeBron this series. Another matchup to look at is the point guard battle. Jeff Teague and Kyrie Irving have great battles against each other, but whoever has the edge may lead their team to victory. Jeff will have to continue to attack the paint and find other Hawks players for points.

It will take a group effort from the Hawks to slow the Cavs down and make this a competitive series. If the Hawks take every game slow and get good games from all of their players, this team can surprise many people that think it will be a cake walk for the Cavs into the Conference Finals.

Malik Brown

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