LAST TIME OUT
The Cavaliers (31-45) improved to 5-1 over their past six games with a convincing 119-98 victory over the Orlando Magic on the road. However, a much more meaningful contest awaits the Cavs on Friday night. But, considering the momentum Cleveland has built up as of late and the fact that Kyrie Irving is back in the lineup, I think the Wine & Gold can come away with one of their biggest wins of the season against the slipping Atlanta Hawks. If Cleveland can push the pace and throw off the Atlanta defense like the did in Orlando, then I think the Cavs will continue their improbably run to the playoffs.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Atlanta Hawks
Record: 32-42 (21-15 home)
Tipoff: Friday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. – Phillips Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: 127-125 double-overtime Cavaliers loss at Quicken Loans Arena – Dec. 26, 2013
Opponent’s Blog: Soaring Down South
Cavaliers: SF Luol Deng (DAY-TO-DAY, strained back), C Anderson Varejao (DAY-TO-DAY, shoulder)
The Biggest Game in Sometime
The Cavaliers will be duking it out with the Hawks on Friday, who have lost seven of their last eight games and have slipped out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Cleveland, now just two games behind the final postseason position, will be looking to gain a full-game advantage on the road against the Hawks in their pursuit for the postseason. Although Cleveland’s odds looked dim just a couple of weeks ago, the Wine & Gold have surged over the past nine games to go 5-4, putting themselves two whole games out of the final spot with six game left on the schedule. With one of those games coming against Atlanta, there is no better chance for Cleveland to continue their miraculous comeback by beating the flightless Hawks.
Paul Millsap: The Destroyer
During his reign of terror over the months of March and April, Millsap was able to conjure up 19.1 points per game and corral 8.1 boards per contest, in which the Hawks went 6-11 during a crucial portion of the regular season. Although Millsap’s contribution cannot be pushed to the wayside, the rest of the team has failed to find chemistry because of the absence of crucial center Al Horford. Millsap has carried quite a heavy load over the past couple of months, but it should be an interesting matchup to see how the Cleveland frontcourt handles the multiple-weaponed Millsap. If players like Spencer Hawes can get him to play out of his comfort zone, the Cavs may be able to exploit the explosiveness of Millsap, thus slowing down the Hawks outside and physical offensive attack.
One Quarter at a Time
It’s no secret that the Cavs have been taking these past 10 games one game at a time, but the real recipe between Cleveland’s recent success has been their ability to fight hard for 12-minute increments. This begins with Mike Brown’s lineup scheme, which has been working wonderfully with a starting mix of Kyrie Irving (presumably Jarrett Jack), Dion Waiters (presumably C.J. Miles/Matthew Dellavedova), Luol Deng (presumably Alonzo Gee), Tristan Thompson and Spencer Hawes (Anderson Varejao). With players like Jack and Tyler Zeller contributing nightly to the Cleveland bench and the starters accumulating 75 percent of the team’s posts, I’m finally seeing this team reach its fruition.
After being squashed in Atlanta previously this season I think the new-look Cavs will do justice against the injury-riddled Hawks,98-87. Although Millsap will be able to get his against Cleveland, the chemistry of the Cleveland core has been too overbearing for clubs over the past month or so. Look for the Cavs to continue their march to the playoffs.