James, Cavs to declaw Hawks?
Barely 24 hours removed from passing one of the sport’s all-time offensive greats, LeBron James gets a chance to keep climbing the ladder tonight.
The four-time MVP and his Cavaliers take aim at their second straight victory when they visit Eastern Conference rival Atlanta at 8 p.m. ET. Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI prefer Philips Arena's inhabitants as 2.5-point favorites, with the over/under total registering at 206.
On Thursday evening, James needed just three quarters of work to eclipse Dominique Wilkins for 12th place on the NBA’s career scoring list. No. 23 netted 24 points as the Cavs (53-22) served New Jersey a 107-87 defeat. Tyronn Lue’s team led by 24 at intermission, allowing the head coach to preserve multiple standouts for the quick turnaround.
The Hawks (45-31) enter the tilt well-rested, too, having last played on Wednesday. They’ve won nine of 11 and hold a one-game edge over Miami and Charlotte in the Southeast Division race. You don’t have to remind Mike Budenholzer’s troops about the significance of this particular matchup, either, considering Cleveland swept Atlanta in the East finals in 2014-15.
James amassed 121 points, 44 rebounds and 37 assists in that series. Tonight, he requires 22 points to leapfrog Oscar Robertson on the same aforementioned list. That figure seems wholly attainable, but it would be nice to see some signs of life from sidekick Kyrie Irving. The guard finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, two boards and three dimes against the Nets. Over the last five contests, he’s converting just 34.6 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Nonetheless, we expect Irving to rise up vs. an Atlanta group that surrendered 105 points to Toronto earlier in the week. The time has arrived for all of the Cavaliers to hit the accelerator, period.
FRIDAY NBA FREE PICK: CLEVELAND +2.5