Cavaliers Preview Game #4: Hawks at Cavs

Atlanta Hawks (3-0) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (1-2)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
7:00 PM EST

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team in desperate need of a momentum recovery. Having dropped 2 consecutive embarrassing losses after the emotional tip off winner, the Cavaliers now face one of the 5 best teams so far in the NBA. This will be the last home game for the Cavaliers before a mini 3 game road trip, so the team will be desperate for a way to pull off a win. Mo Williams will hope he can provide an answer as he makes his 2010-11 debut, but in a game where the Cavaliers have matchup deficits at every position, playing a hungry team eager for respect in their own right, it’s going to be a tough fight to say the least. Unless the Cavaliers can find a way to correct some of their problems from the last 2 games, tonight’s game is going to get ugly pretty quickly.

Projected Starting Lineups

Atlanta Hawks:

-G Mike Bibby (13.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 0.7 spg, 19.07 PER)
-G Joe Johnson (23.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, .308 3P%, 19.53 PER)
-F Marvin Williams (7.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 9.53 PER)
-F Josh Smith (11.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.3 bpg, 16.93 PER)
-C Al Horford (14.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 26.29 PER)

Key Reserves: Jamal Crawford, Zaza Pachulia, Josh Powell

Injuries: Maurice Evans (out), Pape Sy (out)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Ramon Sessions (13.0 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 9.13 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (10.7 ppg, 3.7 apg, .556 3P%, 10.48 PER)
-F Jamario Moon (6.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 8.73 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (14.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 17.63 PER)
-C Anderson Varejao (8.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 13.14 PER)

Key Reserves: Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, Antawn Jamison, Jawad Williams, Ryan Hollins, Leon Powe

Injuries: Antawn Jamison (game time decision), Mo Williams (probable)

Team Efficiency Stats

Atlanta Hawks:

-Off (107.3 ppg, .485 FG%, 44.3 rpg, 21.0 apg, 17.3 TOpg, Eff-110.5, Rank-1)
-Def (100.0 ppg, .457 FG%, 36.3 rpg, Eff-102.1, Rank-15)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Off (93.3 ppg, .437 FG%, 35.0 rpg, 20.3 apg, 15.7 TOpg, Eff-96.1, Rank-25)
-Def (98.3 ppg, .489 FG%, 42.3 rpg, Eff-104.0, Rank-18)

Previous Matchups


Future Matchups

  1. Wed, Dec 22 at Atlanta
  2. Sun, Mar 27 at Cleveland

Game Notes

It’s amazing how quickly things can fall apart when you don’t have a superstar on your team to bail you out as you develop bad habits. That’s the problem staring the Cavaliers right in the face. Who is going to take control of this team and stop these long, extended periods of bad basketball? Someone needs to, because right now the Cavaliers look about as bad as the most dire of predictions were saying they would.

The Cavaliers are virtually subpar at every aspect of the game right now. Their offense is overall pretty bad, their defense is atrocious, they don’t rebound, they don’t protect the basketball, their assist rate is bad, they’re one of the absolute worst rebounding teams in the NBA, they’re struggling mightily to grasp the half court offense and not looking to push enough, and in general they just seem to lack any kind of focus or chemistry on the court. In short, after that emotional start, this team is just struggling.

In marches the Atlanta Hawks, a team feeding off being overlooked in their own right. Coming off a year in which the Hawks won 53 games, finished with the 3 seed in the East, made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs for the 2nd straight year after pushing the Boston Celtics’ Big 3 to 7 games in the first round the year before those, the Hawks carried over player continuity once again. Sure, they could regret the Joe Johnson contract in a few years, but they won’t care one bit this season. They’re returning basically the same team with a new coach offering a fresh perspective. Yet they were obviously overshadowed in season previews by the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat in their own division, not to mention some prognostications having the Celtics and Bulls moving ahead of them as well.

After a sluggish performance in the preseason, there was reason to have doubts, but the Hawks have come out of the gate in the regular season firing on all cylinders. This is one of the most dynamic offenses in the NBA. Loaded with size, athleticism, and superb shooting, the Hawks can score on you in so many different ways. They love scoring in the open court, but they also can kill you in the paint with guys like Horford and Smith. They rack up fouls on opponents and they also draw a ton of “And1” opportunities. They are the most efficient shooting team overall in the NBA, they jump out to huge leads on their opponents, and they boast a +7.5 point differential and they are 4th in the NBA in Effiency Differential at +8.4.

So yeah, this team is good. For the Cavaliers to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to do several things. First, and foremost, they absolutely must improve their assists and turnovers. Getting Mo Williams, although not used to this offense in real game time, should help, but Ramon Sessions needs to start being more decisive and making quicker decisions on where he’s going with the ball. As a team they need to stop shooting themselves in the foot and turning the ball over so frequently. These are mostly lazy mental mistakes that can be fixed with better focus and with time as the team begins to get a better grasp on this new offense. The good news is that the infrastructure is there, it’s just a matter of the Cavs fixing the mistakes that can be limited.

Secondly, they need to put defensive pressure on Atlanta and force some mistakes. The biggest weakness in the Hawks game is their tendency to turn the ball over a lot. Though the Cavaliers are still lagging at a below-league-average pace, they still manage to get their fastbreak opportunities (10th in the NBA in fastbreak ppg). Obviously a team that turns the ball over a lot is more succeptible to giving up breaks the other way, and that’s where the Cavaliers can try to hurt the Hawks.

Overall Atlanta is not a great defensive team. Though their frontcourt is athletic and with Josh Smith blocking shots left and right it can be tough to be aggressive in the paint against them, the Hawks still give up a fair number of points per game because they get beat so much at the point of attack. Joe Johnson is a capable defender, but Mike Bibby is an absolute defensive liability in the mold of Mo Williams. From the 1 game I’ve seen them this, combined with previous year’s experience watching them, they seem to have little interest in playing team defense as help is almost always slow to come, if at all, once one on one containment is broke.

So in theory, if the Cavaliers execute their motion offense with good efficiency and push the ball whenever humanly possible, they should be able to score some points on the Hawks. Of course, that’s all on paper. There’s still the small problem of, you know, actually executing. A healthy and productive Antawn Jamison would be a benefit to the Cavaliers as he has put up 20.73 points per game against Atlanta the last 3 years (11 games), but we still just don’t know what’s up exactly with Antawn.

With Mo Williams returning (although we don’t know how many minutes he will be able to play), the Cavaliers would be well suited to make sure that he and Sessions both go right at Bibby. It’s probably the Cavaliers’ biggest offensive mismatch. Horford is a solid post defender and Andy’s lack of size plays into Horford’s strengths. JJ Hickson is usually the most athletic and quickest power forward on the floor, but that won’t be the case when going up against Josh Smith, who will be able to pester and bother JJ’s shots all night. Therefore, it puts an even higher premium on the Cavaliers’ ability to generate good looks in the flow of their offense. Otherwise, if they try to take on the Hawks straight on, it’s going to be ugly.

Finally, the last area the Cavs have an edge is in the reserves. With Mo coming off the bench in this game, the Cavaliers might have an even bigger edge here. The Hawks bench players are really good (Jamal Crawford, obviously, is as good as it gets off the bench), but with Maurice Evans out with an injury, the Hawks will be limited in the number of bodies they feel comfortable using. If the Cavaliers can keep the game close, they might force Hawks coach Larry Drew into using just an 8 man rotation, forcing players to log heavy minutes. The Hawks already have 3 players averaging 30+ minutes per game, and 6 players averaging 25+ minutes as it is, but they don’t have many minutes spread out to their reserves beyond those top 6. The Cavaliers try to spread their minutes out and have 10 players averaging 17+ minutes per game. The Cavaliers will hope their fresher legs will help them do a better job pushing the ball and being able to hang in with the Hawks for all 4 quarters.

After 2 extremely disappointing results, the Cavaliers will hopefully be up for this game. It’s their last home game in over a week and it’s a chance to get their season back on the right track before hitting the road. Whether they win or lose isn’t as important as the level of development they show in this game. If they roll over and get hammered by the Hawks, it could signal a downward spiral into one of the easiest months in their schedule. The Cavaliers need to start playing better basketball, and it has to happen tonight.

Vegas Line

Cleveland +3.5
Over/Under 190.5

From The Outside Looking In

Peachtree Hoops
Hawks Blog (AJC’s Michael Cunningham)
From The Highlight Factory

Birds Of A Feather

Stepien Rules
Cavs: The Blog
The Wine and Gold Rush
Random Thoughts

Next Game For The Cavaliers

Friday, November 5, 2010
7:00 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers

  • Vengeful Pat

    Good stuff Andrew… I might argue that neither Mike Bibby nor Marvin Williams create much of a matchup problem for Ramon Sessions or Jamario Moon, but if you’re insinuating that they’ll be playing a lot of help defense on the Hawks and leaving their man open for jumpers, then I could see that. I agree that Hickson will have his hands full with Josh Smith on both ends. Hopefully Smith will fall in love with his jumper for most of the game and forget how devastating he can be close to the basket.

  • boogeyman

    Hawks by 12 – sadly!

  • Randallhank

    Overall good analysis as usual, but it’s a bit early to be making the bold negative proclamations about what the Cavs’ tendensies are (rebounding, defense, etc.), especially with two key players missing for each game. Because the strength of the Cavs team is middling depth, they are really hampered defensively without Varejao, and even worse offensively without Williams and Jamison healthy. My suspicion is that they will be a good rebounding team ultimately, and at least become average on defense (which is about all you can hope for with the style of play Scott wants). Scott’s gameplan is to put pressure on another team’s defense in transition and also in the half court. This will win some regular season game s in the NBA, especially at home. It will also get you blown out on night when you don’t have it. We aren’t going to out-talent teams this year, but we can win games. When we lose, it’s gonna be ugly and this will make the total stats look really bad (+/-). But it’s about winning games, so I don’t care if they get blown out by twenty or lose by two. The other option is just to tank the season.

    As for the Hawks, they are definitely coming together as a team, but the Cavs could take them in Cleveland. The Hawks aren’t loaded with talent, aren’t especially big and are prone to defensive lapses. Scott will follow the plan and throw 10 bodies at them.

  • Dave

    Poor defense and poor rebounding is very much on JJ Hickson. Anderson can do a lot for us in both those departments, but Hickson needs to pull his weight.

  • nick

    do we know why Jamison has yet to enter the game and its the third quarter? is he injured or is that down the depth chart these days for Byron Scott?

  • Scott

    “do we know why Jamison has yet to enter the game and its the third quarter? is he injured or is that down the depth chart these days for Byron Scott?”

    He was inactive.