It's Atlanta - bring it, bitches

It's Atlanta - bring it, bitches

zz The Buckeye Battlecry

It's Atlanta - bring it, bitches

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Finally, we get to start Round 2.

After an 8 day rest, the Cleveland Cavaliers will take the court Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena and face the Atlanta Hawks in a conference semi-final matchup.  The Cavs quickly dispatched the Detroit Pistons 4 games to 0, while Atlanta struggled to knock off Miami 4 games to 3.

On paper, this is a no-brainer.  Same thing goes for in reality, but nothing is a sure thing.  The Hawks have an ability to shock you and they probably will a few times this series.  But let’s be honest, this is not yet a team that can knock off the Cavaliers four times in a 7-game span.

First, let’s look back at what Atlanta just accomplished, their series win over the Miami Heat;

Frankly, I want to be impressed with Atlanta, and at times during their first-round series, I was.  But they fell apart too many times against a weak an injured Miami squad, and that takes a LOT of their shine away.

They started off the series in style, crushing the Heat by 26 points, 90-64.  Holding a team that has Dwyane Wade on it to 64 points is a task, and they did it.  But two nights later, Miami stormed back and scored 108 points in a 15-points win.  Allowing a team like the Heat to turn around a game by 41 points is inexcusable.

It was about this time that Wade’s back started to seize up on him more, and that should have been the time when Atlanta ended all Miami’s hopes in the series.  They should have been double-teaming Wade and forcing others to beat them.  The Hawks failed miserably there, allowing Wade to get 29 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists…..and the Heat took a 2-1 lead with a 29-point victory.

From that point on, every game was U-G-L-Y and I saw no reason to believe that either team could have put up too much of a fight against the 70-16 Cavaliers.  Too many stupid turnovers, too many ill-advised shots, and absolutely no heart once a lead was allowed.  As bad as the Pistons series was for us, this one might equal it in terms of competition.  My biggest fear right now is that Detroit and Atlanta may not properly prepare us for the Eastern Finals and the Finals.

So with that, let’s look at what to expect in this series, by reviewing what happened in the four games the cavs and Hawks have already played this year;

November 22nd – Cleveland 110, Atlanta 96

I’ll admit, I wasn’t watching this game live – that same day, I was elsewhere (hint – Ohio State 42, Michigan 7).  But I’ll bet that near the end of the game, nobody else in Georgia was watching it either.

The Cavaliers raced out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back.  An 18-point lead in the first quarter turned into a 25-point lead midway through the 2nd stanza.  Eventually the lead grew to 30 points, and the Hawks could do very little to slow down the attack.  Garbage time points for the benches led to a closer final score than it should have been.

The Hawks leading scorer was Acie Law, who won’t see any time worth noting in this series due to an injury (he only saw 13 minutes of garbage time against Miami).  LeBron led the way for the Cavs with 24 points, 7 rebopunds and 8 assists.  Our shooting was clicking all night (LeBron was the ONLY starter who didn’t hit more than 50 percent of his shots…and that includes Ben Wallace, who was 2 for 3).

December 13 – Atlanta 97, Cleveland 92

Coming off a game the night before against Philadelphia, the Cavs traveled south to face Atlanta without Zydrunas Ilgauskas.  Nothing went right for the Cavs as they shot an anemic 41 percent from the floor.  But still, they were in the game until the final seconds.

LeBron scored 33 points, but couldn’t get to the finish line with the win, as Mike Bibby buried a late 3 to put the game away and end the Cavaliers’ 11-game win streak.

Ilgauskas’ injury would resurface two weeks later and sit him down for nearly a month.

March 1st – Cleveland 88, Atlanta 87

A defensive battle took place, and the Cavs’ leader hit the final shot to win it.

With 1:42 left to play, the Hawks had a 5-point lead, and the Cavaliers refused to allow another trip to Philips Arena to end with a loss.  Delonte West took a crisp pass from LeBron and buried a 20-footer with 1:23 left to cut it to 87-84 Hawks.  Brilliant defense forced Flip Murray into a long shot that missed right, and the Cavs had a shot.  Murray responded by blocking a LeBron shot, but he got the ball back and found a wide-open Mo Williams on the wing.  Williams buried a three to tie it at 87-87 with 47 seconds left.

Hawks’ All-Star Joe Johnson missed a 6-footer at the other end, which set up LeBron for the winner.  As LeBron pulled up to shoot, Al Horford was whistled for the foul on James.  LeBron hit the second of 2 free throws and sealed the deal.

James led the way with 26 points, 6 boards and 11 assists, none as big as his final assist to Williams.

The next day, the Cavs signed Joe Smith.  Hallelujah.

March 21st – Cleveland 102, Atlanta 96

Once again, the Hawks came into The Q looking for a big upset.  Once again, they were shocked early.

The Cavaliers fell behind 7-4 early, then went on a 19-2 run to take a 23-9 lead and never looked back.  The lead grew as high as 24 points early in the second quarter and hovered in the hig hteems until some late garbage points closed the gap (a late 10-2 turned a 14-point game into a more repsectable margin).

This game was the most balanced of all the Cavs-Hawks game for the wine and gold.  LeBron James was the leading Cavalier in no single offensive category.  Williams led in points, Varejao in rebounds, and Williams again in assists.

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My analysis of what to watch out for?

Best player on Atlanta – Joe Johnson.  Dude can swish it from anywhere and has a nice drive to the lane.  Keep him to the left and you can force bad shots.

Player most likely to implode – Josh Smith.  His hot-dogging in Game 5 led to a bit of an embarrassment and a forced apology before Game 6.  Then he did it again in Game 7.  He’s not going to repsond wellat home if the Cavs open up a 2-0 lead in the series.

Biggest threat to the Cavs – Mike Bibby.  He’s the guy with experience on the Hawks and they’ll turn to him often.  DO NOT leave him open behind the 3-point line.  He’ll kill you all day if you do.

Runner-up for biggest threat – Flip Murray.  The guy can shoot well and is looking to smack his former teammates.  He was a big key to the Hawks first round success, and averages 12 points per game against Cleveland this year.

My prediction – Cavs in 5.

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