NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/7

NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/7

Game 2, Hawks at Cavs
By Josh Jacobs

We’re back to the scene of the crime. As expected by both books and the betting public, Cleveland reigned supreme over Atlanta on Tuesday, taking the 99-72 victory as ‘chalky’ 11 ½-point home favorites. While the Hawks were able to hang tight in the first half, Cleveland led 49-44, quarters three and four told a much different story. Behind a demoralized Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, Atlanta struggled to scratch together just 28 points in the second half (11 in the fourth).

Other problems that plagued the Hawks were generating a grand total of 10 points from the bench, allowing the Cavaliers to penetrate the paint for a 40 spot on the board and giving up 15 fast break points versus working for just six of their own.

And so we move to Game 2. If a price of +200 (bet $100 to make $200) for Cleveland to take the series in five games and a +160 value (bet $100 to make $160) for them to sweep were any indication of what was to come then should we have buried Atlanta in the series before making it out to the court on Tuesday? It might only be dawn before Game 2 but from an editorial perspective the answer looks to be unequivocally, yes.
   
The first indication of foreseeable problems for the Hawks was turnovers. In the three defeats versus Miami in the first round, Atlanta managed to cough the rock up for an average of 12.3 TOs per game (with a high of 16 versus Miami in Game 6). It might not compare to say New Orleans’ 18.4 turnovers per game or Chicago’s 16.1 in the postseason, but Tuesday underlined the butterfinger problems as the Hawks clocked in at 17 losses of possession. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

If shooting is the basic fundamental of basketball then hitting a dismal 42.5 percent of its shots isn’t going to get the job done, period. Atlanta was responsible for shooting under 40 percent twice in its best of seven against Miami. Its current average of 42.4 percent from the field in all eight playoff games ranks 14th worst out of the 16 clubs that have participated this postseason. And forget about the three-point shot as a bailout plan. Atlanta is clocking in at only 34 percent from beyond the arc.

In defense of a team whose entire roster is averaging 25.2 years of age, the Hawks have maintained a relative stiff defense. Atlanta has allowed opponents throughout the playoffs to sink in 89.5 PPG. This has trickled down to the ‘under’ record sitting at 6-2 in the last eight. Coincidental or not, the same six ‘under’ games have seen the Hawks outrebounded by a total margin of -19 (margin of -3.2 RPG).

We can look at the inferior statistics until blue in the face but the fact is Atlanta is a group of outstanding players without a central go-to guy. Josh Smith’s 17 PPG in the last eight isn’t indicative of a marquee player. Joe Johnson’s 16.4 PPG, Mike Bibby’s (the guy with the most playoff experience) 15.4 and Ronald Murray’s 11.4 scoring figures point to role players instead of the clutch standouts this team is in need of as conference semifinal competitors.

But more importantly, how are we going to pull out a profit?

In a recent discussion with senior writer Chris David, a 4-1 ATS record in favor of Cleveland’s second half performance has been a solid avenue for figures in the black. The lone ATS loss came in Game 2 of the first round as Detroit was able to crank out 32 points in the fourth quarter. The Cavs were favored by three-points in the second half, and the final 50-48 score from the third and fourth quarters equated to backers missing out by the skimp, one-point on the board. Minus this one isolated incident, it’s been smooth sailing. Even in Tuesday’s contest as a 6 ½-point favorite in the second half, Cleveland was able to keep the pedal on the metal, outscoring its foe 50-28.

Talking about the Cavaliers’ run through Detroit and its expected explosion on top of Atlanta, their defensive effort should be brought to the forefront. Just check out the details involved in holding opponents to an average of 76.8 PPG! No matter what bar books have set for totals, the ‘under’ continues to shower at the window in four straight. This is despite Sportsbook.com setting the lowest total on Apr. 18 to 176.5 in a 102-84 win over the Pistons.

While backers have had to sacrifice anywhere from five to 11 1/2-points in all five playoff appearances, only one game resulted in a sweat shop. Installed at that 'chalky' 11 ½-point spread in Game 1 of round 1, Cleveland decided to ease off the defensive pressure as Detroit worked for 32 points in the fourth. But as it was, the Cavs once again covered in what would be nine straight ATS wins as of Tuesday’s victory.

Taking a look back at the last four meetings this season reveals a different story in regards to wagering. While Cleveland has celebrated over a 3-1 SU record during the regular season (8-2 SU in the last 10), Atlanta has done victory laps around the betting counter, covering three of four.

Maybe the best example favoring the Cavs was on Nov. 22 of last year. Cleveland closed the window down as a 12-point favorite. By applying suffocating pressure throughout the entire contest, the Cavaliers were able to cover even with the Hawks going on to score 64 points in the second half. The reason for interest is that most books have opened Cleveland at a peaking, 13-point home favorite. With such a high spread taking precedence the main point is that we’ve seen this exact scenario once before.

A total of 177 ½ has also been set, a response which looks to be in reaction to the ‘under’ run by both teams. The Hawks are 8-2 on the ‘under’ in the last 10 while the ‘under’ is 16-5-1 in Cleveland’s last 22 home games.

Game time is set to tip-off at 8:00 p.m. EST. ESPN will take over Thursday’s coverage of this lone contest on the card.

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Game of the day: Hawks at Cavaliers
By Matt Fargo

Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers (-12.5, 177.5)

Behind the woodshed


After losing three games by an average of 23.3 ppg to the Heat in the first round, the Hawks dropped another dud, losing by 27 points against Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Championship-caliber teams don’t lose playoff games like this. If a team does go down by a wide margin, you can give them the benefit of the doubt but losing four in a row in blowout fashion means wait until next year.

Atlanta has to win one game in Cleveland to have any shot in this series. That will be tough to do considering the Cavaliers have lost only two games, including just one meaningful game, at home the entire season. Add to that, the Hawks have played eight road playoff games in the past two seasons and they've been blown out of the building in seven of them, losing by 27, 23, 19, 25, 34, 29 and 26 points.

The Cavaliers have been the most consistent team in covering the spread this season. They are the only team to win more than 60 percent of their games against the number. Cleveland is now 15-7 ATS (68.2 percent) when favored by 11 or more points on the year.

Shutting down the stars

It is becoming more and more obviously that LeBron James cannot be stopped. He is coming off a 12-for-20 shooting performance while scoring 34 points in Game 1. The Pistons were unable to stop him and it looks as though Atlanta isn’t going to be any more successful.

On the flip side, Joe Johnson is the go to guy for the Hawks and if he can’t get going, Atlanta will have a tough time keeping up. Delonte West is becoming an elite defender in the league and he put the clamps on Johnson. He took four first-half shots (none the second quarter) and scored only four first-half points. In the third quarter, he tried to do too much after having done too little.

“I wasn't trying to force it,” Johnson said afterward referring to his first half performance. “I wanted to let the game come to me. And they did a good job with their defense and double-teams.”

Hopefully Johnson realizes that won’t work against Cleveland and he needs to be more aggressive from the start, beginning in Game 2.

Down and out?

Despite the Game 1 beating, the Hawks’ confidence does not seem to be down, just as it wasn’t in the first series against Miami. Atlanta followed up the last two losses to the Heat with two big wins, one coming on the road. Now, on a bigger stage and one that is certainly tougher, the Hawks are handling things the right way.

“It’s a lot like Boston was last year,” Marvin Williams said of the Hawks’ battle against the top-seeded Celtics in the first round. “There’s no added pressure on us because, if you let people tell it, we don’t belong.”

That is the right attitude to have, as a loose team can do a lot more damage than a tight one.

The Hawks played Cleveland fairly even in the first half in Game 1, so they know they can compete. They can also look back to the regular season and remember that they snapped the Cavaliers' 11-game winning streak with a 97-92 victory at Atlanta on December 13.

Atlanta is only 17-28 on the road this season but a much more respectable 22-21-2 ATS. We will once again see a very big number Thursday and the Hawks are 9-5 ATS on the season when getting more than six points. However, they are 0-2 ATS when getting 11 points or more and both of those losses came against the Cavaliers. Talent can certainly upstage confidence no matter the situation.

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(4) Atlanta (4-4 SU and ATS) at (1) Cleveland (5-0 SU and ATS)

The Cavaliers, who quickly found their form in Game 1 after an eight-day break between the first and second rounds, aim to take a 2-0 lead over the Hawks when this best-of-7 conference semifinal series resumes at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland hammered Atlanta 99-72 Tuesday night as a heavy 11½-point home chalk, using stifling defense in allowing just 28 second-half points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. LeBron James was on fire from the outset, scoring 22 of his 34 points in the first half, and he added 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Mo Williams chipped in 21 points, and the Cavs forced 17 turnovers while committing just seven.

Josh Smith had 22 points and Mike Bibby 19 for Atlanta, but nobody else really got going, and the Hawks made just 9 of 18 free throws, while Cleveland went 17 of 24 from the line. Atlanta also had a 41-33 deficit on the boards, allowing the Cavs to snatch 15 offensive rebounds.

Cleveland, allowing a suffocating 76.8 ppg in the playoffs while scoring 94.6, is now 4-1 SU (2-3 ATS) in the season series with Atlanta, and Tuesday’s cover snapped the Hawks’ three-game spread-covering run in this rivalry. The favorite has cashed in 17 of the last 25 meetings, and the home team is on a 4-1 ATS uptick.

Cleveland is an NBA-best 42-2 SU (31-13 ATS) at home this season, while Atlanta is just 17-28 SU (22-23 ATS) on the highway.

The Cavaliers, who went a league-leading 50-32 ATS in the regular season, are on pointspread rolls of 9-0 overall, 37-16 at home, 8-0 after a SU win, 6-0 in second-round playoff games and 15-3 as a playoff chalk.

The Hawks are still 12-3 ATS in their last 15 starts against Central Division foes, but they carry negative ATS streaks of 1-7 as an underdog, 5-13 on the road against teams with a winning home record and 0-6 catching more than 10 points.

The under for Cleveland is on a bundle of runs, including 8-2-1 at home, 15-4 in conference semifinal games and 6-1 when favored in the postseason. Likewise, the under for Atlanta is on tears of 8-2 overall, 5-0 on the road, 11-2 against winning teams and 5-0 with the Hawks as a playoff pup.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CLEVELAND and UNDER

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NBA Today

SCOREBOARD

Thursday, May 7

Atlanta at Cleveland (8 p.m. EDT). The Cavaliers, who have won every game in the playoffs by double digits, look to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

STARS

Wednesday

— Rajon Rondo(notes) and Eddie House(notes), Celtics. Rondo had 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds for his third triple-double of the playoffs, and House scored a career playoff-high 31 points to lead Boston to a 112-94 victory over Orlando in Game 2 that evened the Eastern Conference semifinals.

— Ray Allen(notes), Celtics, added 22 points for Boston, which never trailed.

— Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pao Gasol, Lakers. Bryant scored 40 points, Gasol added 22 points and 14 rebounds and Los Angeles won Game 2 against Houston 111-98 to even the Western Conference semifinal series.

STATS

Orlando, which won Game 1 at Boston, never led in the second game, a 112-94 loss, trailing by 15 at halftime and by as many as 26 in the second half … Rajon Rondo has five career triple-doubles—three in the last eight games. He is the only Celtic other than Larry Bird to have three playoff triple-doubles in one season … The Lakers are 25-12 all-time when splitting the first two games of any best-of-seven series.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Ron Artest(notes), one of two players ejected in the game, scored 25 points, and Carl Landry(notes) added a career playoff-high 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets in their 111-98 loss to the Lakers in Game 2. The series is tied 1-1.

SWINGS

Eddie House’s 20 second-half points for Boston in its 112-94 win over Orlando were more than he had scored in any playoff game in his career. He finished with 31 points … Before their win, the Celtics had never beaten the Magic in a playoff game in Boston, having previously met in the best-of-five first round in 1995.

WE WANT WADE

Heat president Pat Riley said the team has already broached the topic of getting star guard Dwyane Wade(notes) to extend his contract this summer, instead of waiting for the potentially blockbuster-filled offseason of 2010. Wade led the league in scoring this season before Miami fell in seven games to Atlanta in the playoffs.

DEFENSE, DEFENSE

Orlando center Dwight Howard(notes), the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, drew the most votes for the league’s All-Defensive Team. Howard was joined by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James(notes), Chris Paul(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes) on the first team. Chosen for the second team were Tim Duncan(notes), Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Shane Battier(notes) and Ron Artest.

GETTING TECHNICAL

Emotions boiled over in the second half at Los Angeles, with Derek Fisher(notes) of the Lakers and Houston’s Ron Artest getting ejected and technical fouls assessed to Kobe Bryant, Artest, Luis Scola(notes), Luke Walton(notes) and Lamar Odom(notes). The Lakers won 111-98.

SIDELINED?

Cavaliers guard Sasha Pavlovic(notes) broke his nose in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s Game 1 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night. Pavlovic was elbowed by Hawks forward Zaza Pachulia(notes) in the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ 99-72 win. He left practice early Wednesday and was fitted with a mask at the Cleveland Clinic. Cavs coach Mike Brown expects Pavlovic to be available for Game 2 on Thursday night. … Atlanta starting center Al Horford(notes) was held out of practice because of a tender ankle and is a game-time decision for Thursday’s Game 2 at Cleveland.

SPEAKING

“I was sluggish to start Game 1 and didn’t come out with enough passion. And that will never happen again.”—Celtics guard Rajon Rondo after posting a triple-double to lead Boston past Orlando 112-94 in Game 2 of their playoff series.

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Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James had 34 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals, as the Cavaliers drilled the Hawks 99-72 in Game 1 of the series on Tuesday night.

Cleveland covered as 11-point home favorites as the game played UNDER the 178-point total posted by oddsmakers.

Mo Williams scored 21 points for the Cavaliers, who got 13 points and nine assists from Delonte West in the win.

Josh Smith led the way for Atlanta with 22 points and six boards, while Mike Bibby went for 19 points and eight assists for the Hawks.

Team records:
Atlanta: 47-35 SU, 43-37-2 ATS
Cleveland: 66-16 SU, 49-33 ATS

Atlanta most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 6-4
Before playing Cleveland are 6-4
After playing Cleveland are 5-5
After a loss are 6-4

Cleveland most recently:
When playing on Thursday are 5-5
Before playing Atlanta are 7-3
After playing Atlanta are 8-2
After a win are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Atlanta's last 5 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Atlanta's last 6 games
The total has gone OVER in 14 of Atlanta's last 20 games when playing on the road against Cleveland
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Atlanta's last 6 games when playing Cleveland
Cleveland is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Cleveland is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
Cleveland is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games at home
Cleveland is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Atlanta

Next up:
Cleveland at Atlanta, Saturday, May 9

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ATLANTA (51 - 39) at CLEVELAND (71 - 16)
Top Trends for this game.
ATLANTA is 11-23 ATS (-14.3 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record - 2nd half of the season over the last 3 seasons.
ATLANTA is 38-61 ATS (-29.1 Units) in road games versus good defensive teams - allowing <=91 points/game since 1996.
ATLANTA is 15-26 ATS (-13.6 Units) in road games versus good offensive teams - scoring 99+ points/game over the last 2 seasons.
CLEVELAND is 54-33 ATS (+17.7 Units) in all games this season.
CLEVELAND is 48-27 ATS (+18.3 Units) as a favorite this season.
CLEVELAND is 30-14 ATS (+14.6 Units) in home games this season.
CLEVELAND is 30-14 ATS (+14.6 Units) after 3 or more consecutive unders over the last 3 seasons.
CLEVELAND is 11-3 ATS (+7.7 Units) in home games after allowing 85 points or less this season.
CLEVELAND is 29-16 ATS (+11.4 Units) after a win by 10 points or more this season.
CLEVELAND is 13-5 ATS (+7.5 Units) in home games when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
ATLANTA is 48-40 ATS (+4.0 Units) in all games this season.

Head-to-Head Series History
CLEVELAND is 6-6 against the spread versus ATLANTA over the last 3 seasons
CLEVELAND is 9-3 straight up against ATLANTA over the last 3 seasons
7 of 12 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons


ATLANTA vs. CLEVELAND
Atlanta is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Atlanta is 1-5 SU in its last 6 games when playing Cleveland
Cleveland is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Atlanta
Cleveland is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games when playing Atlanta

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NBA Playoffs

Atlanta is 0-3 in Cleveland this season, 110-96/102-96/99-72. Cavaliers have to guard against being overconfident vs team they held to 28 points in second half of Game 1. Cleveland was +10 in turnovers of first game, had 15 offensive rebounds (Hawks had six). They might want to make Lebron work on defense-- he played 34:19 in Game 1, and didn't commit a foul, at least none were called. Cavs are 5-0 in playoffs, with 11-point win closest game they've had so far. Can Atlanta even compete?

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Tips and Trends

Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers


Hawks: "They did a great job defensively as far as double teaming and trying to keep the ball out of my hands," Joe Johnson said about Game 1. "I just thought in the second half, we just kind of gave up." Atlanta must do a better job of handling Cleveland's intense defensive pressure or this series could be over quickly. Atlanta coach Mike Woodson felt his squad came out flat in the third quarter, and the Cavs seized the chance to throw a submission hold on the Hawks. The Hawks kept Al Horford out of practice on Wednesday with a sore right ankle. Woodson said that Horford would be a game-time decision for Game 2.

The Hawks are 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games as an underdog.
The Under is 6-0 in the Hawks' last 6 games as an underdog.

Key Injuries - C Al Horford (ankle) is QUESTIONABLE.

PROJECTED SCORE: 80


Cavaliers (-13, O/U 177.5): The Cavs held the Hawks to just 28 points - 11 in the fourth quarter - and 30 percent shooting during the second half of their series-opening rout, Cleveland's fifth straight double-digit win in the NBA playoffs. The Cavaliers are allowing just 76.8 points per game in the playoffs. "The coaches got on us," center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said, referring to halftime of Game 1. "They were shooting 56 percent from the field or so, getting some dunks. We came out flat or lackadaisical. The second half was different, we got some stops and they only got one offensive rebound."

The Cavaliers are 9-0 ATS in their last 9 overall.
The Under is 15-4 in the Cavaliers' last 19 Conference Semifinals games.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 97 (Side Play of the Day)

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