When Kyrie Irving returned to the starting lineup last night, things started to look positive for the Cleveland Cavaliers (22-50). But after their second-half debacle in New Orleans Sunday night, reality set in, and the Cavs continued their eight-game losing streak. The second-half destructions have been a problem all season, which has people pointing the finger at Byron Scott. The Wine and Gold will be suiting up to take on the Atlanta Hawks (41-33) in an attempt to fix their problems, but possibly without Irving.
Opponent’s Blog: Soaring Down South
Venue: Philips Arena – Atlanta, GA
Tipoff: Monday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Betting line: Hawks by -10.5
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)
Irving looked great in his first game back after missing the last eight matches; the Cavs went 1-7 in Irving’s absence. Dion Waiters remains out of the lineup and his season status remains uncertain.
The Cavs travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks, who are fighting for a playoff spot, and are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs and Hawks have faced off three times this season and the Cavs are 2-1 against them. The last time they played was in Cleveland and the Cavs won 99-83 with help from Irving, who had 33 points. That was the Hawks’ fifth-straight loss at the time.
The Hawks appear to be a lock as a playoff team this season, but their future remains uncertain. Atlanta’s leading scorer, Josh Smith, will be a free agent in the offseason, and the Hawks had a chance to trade him before the trade deadline in February, but the Cavs old buddy Danny Ferry refused all trade offers.
Tristan Thompson will have his hands full trying to defend the versatile Smith. His ability to score in the paint as well as shoot the three makes him a tough cover. I expect the Cavs to throw different defenders out on him.
Irving is averaging 30 points per game on 61 percent shooting in his last three matchups versus Atlanta. Unfortunately, Irving is out for tonight and Shaun Livingston will be inserted back into the starting lineup.