2016-NBA-Playoffs-Atlanta at Cleveland game 1 preview

**Atlanta at Cleveland**

— When these clubs met in the Eastern Conference finals last season, Cleveland dealt out broom treatment with a clean 4-0 series sweep. Even with Kevin Love sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Cavaliers won the first two games in Atlanta. J.R. Smith’s 28-point explosion on 8-of-12 shooting from 3-point land was the catalyst in Game 1. Kyrie Irving injured his knee in the series opener, but his absence didn’t prevent the Cavs from winning Game 2 by a 94-82 count behind LeBron James’s 30 points. Atlanta came out strong in Game 3 and was leading in the second quarter when Al Horford was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul that was complete garbage. Matthew Dellavedova, who put Kyle Korver out for the series by injuring him during a loose-ball scramble in Game 2, cut Horford’s legs out from under him. While falling to the ground, Horford had to brace his fall and he was coming down on Dellavedova by no fault of his own. Horford gave him a love-tap of a forearm as he landed, but it was nowhere near an act deserving of an ejection, especially in the playoffs. (Trust me, folks. If Horford wanted to give Dellavedova a forearm as if he meant business, Dellavedova would’ve been out for the game as well.) Anyway, without Korver and Horford, Cleveland won 114-111 in overtime. James scored a game-high 37 points, while Jeff Teague had a team-best 30 points in the losing effort. With Irving returning for Game 4, the Cavs easily closed out the series in a 118-88 blowout.

— Cleveland (61-25 SU, 39-44-3 ATS) won all three regular-season meetings against Atlanta this year. The Cavs beat the Hawks 109-97 as 5.5-point home favorites. Then on April 1, Tyron Lue’s squad won a 110-108 decision at Atlanta in overtime as a 2.5-point road ‘chalk.’ On April 11, Cleveland won 109-94 as a 6.5-point home favorite.

— Cleveland advanced to the East semifinals by sweeping Detroit in four games, but the Pistons went 2-2 ATS. They covered as 11-point underdogs in a 106-101 loss in Game 1. Detroit led by five early in the third quarter of Game 2, but Cleveland went on a big run and eventually collected a 107-90 triumph as a 10.5-point home favorite. In Game 3 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Cavs won by a 101-91 count as five-point road favorites.

— In Game 4 at Detroit, Cleveland captured a 100-98 win as a 6.5-point road ‘chalk.’ Reggie Jackson’s 3-point attempt to win the game at the buzzer was off the mark. Jackson pleaded for a foul call on the play to no avail. Irving sparked the winners with 31 points, including a huge trey with 42 seconds remaining. James tallied 22 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals. Smith added 15 points, while Love contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds.

— Irving averaged 27.5 points per game in the first-round series against Detroit. James averaged 22.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, while Love averaged 18.8 points and 12.0 rebounds per contest.

— Cleveland owns a 35-8 SU record and a 21-22 ATS mark at home this year.

— Atlanta (52-36 SU, 45-42-1 ATS) eliminated Boston in Game 6 to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2010-2011. The Hawks coasted to a 104-92 victory as three-point road ‘chalk’ Thursday night at TD Garden Arena. The 196 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 198-point total.

— Mike Budenholzer’s club put the Game 6 on ice in the third quarter, outscoring the Celtics 39-26 after leading by eight at halftime. Atlanta cashed tickets for first-quarter (-0.5, -115) and first-half (-1.5) wagers. The Hawks led by 28 points at one point before Boston trimmed the deficit late in the fourth quarter to create a misleading final score. Paul Millsap led six Atlanta players in double figures with 17 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots. Kent Bazemore added 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots, while Horford snapped out of his scoring slump to produce 15 points, three blocked shots and two steals. Horford hadn’t scored in double figures in the three previous games.

— Korver capped an excellent first-round series in Game 6 by contributing 14 points, nine rebounds, two blocked shots, one steal and three assists compared to just one turnover. Dennis Schroder had 12 points, eight assists and three boards in the series finale, while Teague finished with 11 points and five assists.

— For Monday’s Game 1, the Westgate SuperBook opened Cleveland as a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 201. The number for the side hasn’t moved, while the total was at 200.5 points Sunday night. The Cavs are -350 on the money line, leaving the Hawks as the +290 underdogs (risk $100 to win $290). The Cavs are four-point ‘chalk’ for first-half plays.

— VegasInsider.com’s Chris David likes the Cavs in Game 1. He said, “Even though I believe this series will be more competitive than last year’s playoff encounter, I’m still buying Cleveland in Game 1 at home based on the rest. The Cavaliers will have had eight days off heading into the opener and they’ve thrived in this spot, going 5-1 with at least three days of rest this season. More importantly, they’ve covered four of those wins while outscoring opponents by 13 points per game (101-88).”

— Atlanta owns a 22-22 SU record and a 21-22-1 ATS mark in its 44 road assignments this year.

— The ‘under’ went 5-1 in Atlanta’s series against Boston. The combined scores were (in order) 203, 161, 214, 199 (despite OT), 193 and 196.

— The ‘under’ is 49-39 overall for the Hawks, 24-20 in their road assignments. They have watched the ‘under’ cash at a 9-2 clip in their last 11 outings.

— Totals have been an overall wash (43-43) for the Cavs this year. The ‘over’ is 23-20 in their home games.

— The ‘over’ is 4-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings between these teams.

— VI’s David also has a play on Cleveland’s team total. He said, “The total for Game 1 is hovering between 200 and 201 at most betting shops. The Cavaliers match up real well with the Hawks and it showed in the box scores. They averaged 109 PPG in the three regular season meetings plus they posted 105.8 PPG in the four-game playoff sweep last season. In the first round against Detroit, the Cavs weren’t held under 100 in any of the games and I believe the Pistons scheme and players are much better defensively. Cleveland’s team total is 104 and I believe they surpass that number on Monday.”

— Tip-off for Game 1 is scheduled for Monday night at 7:05 p.m. Eastern on TNT.