1964 was the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship. Also, it has been 51 years since the Cleveland Browns won this city it’s last championship. Can LeBron change that? For Atlanta, it’s been a long time as well. It’s been 20 years since the Atlanta Braves won a championship, and for the Hawks it’s been even worse as this is their first time in the conference finals in 45 years.
These two teams are so vastly different in their makeups. You have Cleveland, a team who relies on many ISOs from their main two guys Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. While the Hawks on the other side rely on heavy spacing, ball movement, and 3 point shooting. Cleveland has had to deal with many injuries while the Hawks have been completely healthy for the most part this post season.
During the regular season, Atlanta won the series 3-1 which included one blowout, but that was early in the season when Cleveland still had Dion Waiters on their team. We’ve seen these two styles clash before in the postseason, so the question is: how will it play out? Let’s break everything down.
PG: K. Irving vs J. Teague
SG: JR. Smith vs K. Korver
SF: LeBron vs D. Carroll
PF: T. Thompson vs P. Millsap
C: T. Mozgof vs A. Horford
Atlanta has to keep the ball moving. Ball movement is what got Atlanta the #1 seed in the East and there have been too many times this postseason where they have gotten stagnant in stretches. If the ball isn’t moving, especially against Cleveland, then this will be a very quick series.
Their defense is not up to par with anyone else left in the playoffs and they will get exposed unless that changes. LeBron and Kyrie could really kill this team in ISOs as they don’t have outstanding defenders to match up with either player, especially LeBron. Teague might give issues to Kyrie at times, but they have absolutely no answer for LeBron in this series.
Kyle Korver is the life of this team on offense. If Korver is off for most of this series, then it will be over quickly. Korver takes on so much attention from the defense with his shooting that he has to be knocking down shots to open things up for Carroll, Teague, and Horford.
Cleveland has to run the 3pt shooters off of the 3pt line. The Hawks rely on their spacing to create everything and if you take that away, they become an average team. If they don’t run those shooters off, then they will slaughter the Cleveland defense with their pinpoint ball movement.
This is a series meant for LeBron and he should take advantage of it as much as possible. This could be one of those series that defines LeBron’s greatness because he could easily dominate each of these games from beginning to end on the offensive side of the ball.
Although JR Smith is starting in this series, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shumpert ended up playing more minutes. The last thing they can allow is Korver to get off easy 3s, and I just don’t like that JR vs Korver matchup. Don’t be surprised if they move Shumpert on to Korver to run through the infinite screens he’s going to have set..
Prediction: Cleveland wins 4-2. I believe for two games Atlanta will be hot, and when they’re hot they’re nearly impossible to beat. I believe at some point there will be an adjustment made that takes Korver out of the equation, and if that happens game over. LeBron should dominate Carroll, and despite Carroll improving a lot on defense, he should have no chance against the best player in the world.