As the Cleveland Cavaliers head into the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks, much has been made about the Hawks winning the season series 3-1, and taking the last three of the contests between the two teams.
And as many have pointed out, only one of those matchups occurred after GM David Griffin reshaped the wine and gold by trading Dion Waiters and draft picks to obtain Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Timofey Mozgov.
In that game, the Cavs were in the midst of a stretch were they played 12 out of 15 games on the road, and the game on March 6th, which Cleveland lost 106-97, was the third contest in a four games in five nights stretch.
Meanwhile, Atlanta was well rested, coming off of two days with no games.
The Hawks raced out to a 36-19 lead after one quarter before the Cavs got their bearings, cutting it to a 53-43 deficit at halftime, and then closed to within two heading into the fourth quarter at 81-79.
Kyle Korver hit a couple of big threes at that point after being bottled up for most of the game to that point, and Atlanta won going away, perhaps because David Blatt’s squad ran out of gas just a bit.
What can we learn from that game? We would say it should be a heck of a series because even though the Hawks were the more rested team, the Cavs fought back and were in the game in the fourth quarter.
As for the other three matchups?
The first occurred on November 15th at Quicken Loans Arena and the wine and gold blew out the visitors from Georgia, 127-94, mostly because they hit 19 of 31 shots from beyond the three-point line, while the Hawks went 3 for 22. Atlanta was playing their third game in four nights, while Cleveland was on the second night of a back-to-back.
The second game was also in Cleveland with the opposite result, the Hawks hammered the Cavaliers, 127-98, behind 16 of 28 shooting from long distance, while the Cavs were 8 of 30. Pretty much a mirror image of the first contest.
The wine and gold’s other visit to Hotlanta occurred on December 30th, with the Hawks winning 109-101. LeBron James was just beginning his time off to recover from his various back and knee issues, but Atlanta did not have Al Horford, who is perhaps their best player.
Atlanta had two days off prior to that game and two more days off after, while the Cavs were in the middle of a three games in four nights stretch. The rest advantage goes to the Hawks.
So, can any conclusions be reached from the previous meetings? Not really, because the Cavs are a completely different team than they were in the first three meetings, and in the last game, they were in the middle of a brutal schedule.
The fact that Blatt’s team overcame a huge first quarter deficit to make it a game late despite that should bode well for this series, as will the fact that Cleveland has the best player on the floor.
Still, the home court disadvantage could be huge in this series. Atlanta didn’t win 60 games by accident, and when they are playing very well, they move the ball better than any team not named San Antonio.
No doubt it will be a huge challenge for Blatt and James. However, based on the toughness this team has shown against the Bulls, we wouldn’t bet against them.