KEEP KORVER FROM DIALING LONG DISTANCE – One of the biggest weapons the Hawks have is shooting guard Kyle Korver and his ability to catch, shoot and make a high percentage of 3-pointers. He has struggled in the postseason so far only shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc and the Cavs need to keep him near that number. When he heats up it makes the rest of the Atlanta offense really flow, so Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith will have to stay in his jersey and not go under screens when it’s their turn to guard Korver on the floor. You also have to be aware of Korver on fast breaks, because he will look to trail and spot up for that transition three.
BANG THE BOARDS – With Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson and LeBron James the Cavaliers should have the advantage with the “BIGS” and win the battle of the boards, especially on the offensive glass. Limiting the Hawks to one shot, while grabbing offensive rebounds themselves should allow the Cavs to capitalize and win the second chance stat category which was HUGE in the Chicago series and can be in this series. Let’s see if the Hawks have anyone who can slow down “Double-T”. The Bulls had no answer for him.
DEFENSE NEEDS TO TRAVEL AGAIN – What won them the Chicago series is what will have to win them this Atlanta series, especially with Kevin Love out and Kyrie Irving and others ailing, and that’s defense. The Cavs are limiting their opponents to just 92.6 points per game in the postseason and holding them to 43.2 percent shooting from the field. Paying attention to Korver from ”3 Country” won’t be the only major challenge on “D” for the Cavs as the Hawks move the ball as well as any team in the league from side-to-side, in and out and with their pace. David Blatt’s team defense will have to be locked in from the opening tip of Game #1 and communicating, rotating and helping on the backside on every possession or the Hawks will pick the Cavs apart. Atlanta is averaging over 25 assists per game in their 12 postseason games.
VALUE THE BALL – The Hawks love to create turnovers and with their athleticism so they can get out and run and chalk up some easy baskets. Atlanta is averaging over 9 steals per game in the playoffs. In their final meeting of the regular season, a Hawks win, LeBron James turned the ball over 9 times. Atlanta blitzed him, trapped him and double teamed him and “The King” admitted that they weren’t really prepared for that. They have to be ready this time, and if the Hawks are that aggressive that means the back door cuts will be there, as will the drive and kick wide open 3-pointers will be there as well. LeBron and company have to be able to read and react to it and make the birds from the ATL pay. LBJ can’t turn it over more than 3 times a game.
UNCLE DREW NEEDS TO GET BUCKETS – A somewhat healthy Kyrie Irving is going to be needed to score points on offense. With his injuries Irving is a major liability on defense and expect the Hawks to exploit that. Whoever Irving is guarding will be a go to guy on offense a lot of the time. With that in mind Kyrie needs to be able to counter that by scoring as many as he gives up. If that means becoming a spot up 3-point shooter and making 90 percent of his free throws because that’s all his body will allow, then so be it. But if Kyrie is going to play 30 to 35 minutes a night his plus/minus needs to be at least a zero.
BENCH BUNCH BE BIG AGAIN – The lift that Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones and J.R. Smith gave the Cavs in the Chicago series was ginormous and needs to be greater in this series. Delly may be called upon even more against the Hawks late in games to come in and play defense for the ailing Kyrie. David Blatt needs to make sure he goes offense for defense and vice versa whenever the situation calls for it. Jones ability to knock down triples will help open up the offense and J.R. needs to be no worse than the team’s 3rd leading scorer in this series. With Thabo Sefelosha out with an injury for the Hawks and with coaches usually shrinking their rotation this time of year, the Cavs need to win the bench battle.
With a healthy LeBron James and his postseason experience, plus if Kyrie Irving can play at close to 80% in all games necessary to win this series, I like the Cavaliers to beat the Hawks in 6 games to advance to the NBA Finals and play the Golden State Warriors for the Larry O’Brien Trophy!