NBA Playoffs Betting: Cavaliers-Hawks Predictions
by Josh Nagel - 05/05/2009
No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers (-2300) vs. No. 4 Atlanta Hawks (+1400)
Records: Cleveland (70-16, 54-32 ATS), Atlanta (51-38, 47-41-1 ATS)
Season Series: Cleveland won 3-1
Overview: If this series goes as scripted - and there's no hard evidence to suggest it won't - the Cavaliers' second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks should be akin to ripping the Band-Aid off a week-old cut. Fast, and relatively painless. That is, unless the Hawks can somehow find a way to become a thorn in Cleveland's side.
Don't bet on it. In its seven-game dulling of the senses that qualified as a first-round series against Heat, Atlanta showed what it can do when its talented young core shows up eager and prepared. Evidently, the Hawks have it written in their contracts that they are only allowed to do so in Atlanta. Yes, the series victory did include one road win, but the Hawks are the Eastern Conference's version of the Utah Jazz. They can look indestructible at home and generally look soft and disinterested on the road.
It's too bad because the core of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford gives Atlanta some exciting, quality young players, but it's clear they are far from mentally tough enough to win in the NBA playoffs.Even in last year's entertaining first-round loss to the Boston Celtics, the Hawks never got within single digits in any of the four games played in Boston. Perhaps it's a maturity issue, or maybe coach Mike Woodson isn't pushing the right buttons. Either way, this team has a ways to go before it can be taken seriously. The news only gets worse for Atlanta because it is facing a Cleveland taem that already has shown it can rip the heart out of clubs that choose to not show much heart of their own in the postseason.
Nobody was surprised that the Cavaliers easily handled the Pistons, but the manner in which they disposed of Detroit's corpse in a four-game sweep was worth noting. The Pistons never sniffed a win or a cover even in the closeout game when they were nearly a double-figure underdog at home.
LeBron James is the MVP of the league, and he now has a capable supporting cast to help fill out a balanced lineup. Together, the Cavaliers have a rugged mentality, fueled by the league's top-ranked defense that allows them to crush teams that aren't mentally strong enough to face a challenge.
Atlanta is one such team. Only two clubs were able to grab a win this season in Cleveland, and one of them came in the meaningless regular-season finale when the Cavs rested their starters. The other came from the Los Angeles Lakers, who are favored to win the NBA title.
Cleveland has won and covered in eight straight games, including each in its sweep over Detroit.
At this point, the Hawks might be a little better than the Pistons, but not by an awful lot. They should be capable of getting their token home win, but anything else would be borderline shocking.
Value: None. Unless you want to dig deep into your wallet to win a few peanuts on the Cavaliers, there's no use in pondering the prices for this series. Of course, there's always the risk that James could suffer a serious injury, which could put such a large bet in serious jeopardy. This is because the adjusted prices would still favor Cleveland, and you might not find a good way to lay off money on Atlanta without taking a substantial hit.
Prediction: Cleveland in five games.