In a Friday night showdown, the Atlanta Hawks will host Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Philips Arena. Hosting the 4th best team in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks look to inch closer to 50 wins this season. The Cavs look to come spoil Atlanta’s incredible record at home (28-4) and to prove to the whole NBA they are a top team. Cleveland is back to being healthy and they come with the Big 3 to face the Atlanta Hawks Big 5. We will preview this matchup and give our predictions on the big game that is set to start at 7:30 ET.
Point Guard: Jeff Teague vs Kyrie Irving
Two of the best point guards in the NBA face-off tonight in Teague and Irving. Both men were voted as All-Stars this season and both men know how to run their teams. Teague comes into this game averaging 16.8 points per game and 7.3 assists per game, while Irving is averaging 21.7 points per game and 5.3 assists per game. Both players run very fast-paced offenses, attack the rim, and can shoot anywhere on the court. However, I give a significant edge to Teague on the defensive side. Whoever can win this battle tonight will make a difference on which team will win the game.
Shooting Guard: Kyle Korver vs J.R. Smith
Edge: Kyle Korver
The matchup between the 2-guards is a very interesting one because the style each man plays is very different. Kyle Korver is a known sharpshooter and is very underrated defensively, while Smith will attack the rim and is not the best at defending. Ever since the Cavs traded for Smith, he has been nothing but golden for their squad. Smith has changed his attitude up and now looks to have more of a winning mentality then an individual mentality. Unfortunately for Smith, he has to face a man who can get open at any cost in Kyle Korver. Korver can make life miserable for anyone who is facing him. I believe Korver has the edge in tonight’s battle because of his defensive skills.
Small Forward: DeMarre Carroll vs Lebron James
Edge: Lebron James
The Junkyard Dog is going to have to step up and play one of his best games of the season. Why does he have to play incredible tonight? The answer is because of Lebron James. Lebron James once again is having a stellar year and has led his team into the right direction at the right time. In the Cavaliers last 10 games, they are 7-3, which is heading in the right direction. DeMarre has been a key asset to the Hawks lineup this year because he will go to any extent to help lead his team to victory. If you see any loose balls tonight, I bet you Carroll will be in the pile trying to get that ball. He will have his hands full facing the four-time MVP in Lebron James.
Power Forward: Paul Millsap vs Kevin Love
Edge: Paul Millsap
This matchup will be very intense because of the level of aggression these guys play at. Millsap might be undersized for a power forward, but he will prove anyone wrong who believes that. Love has been finding his role with the Cavs and is starting to get more comfortable in how he plays. Millsap will do a lot of Atlanta’s dirty work, especially in the paint. If Millsap catches fire during the game, good luck to Love because Millsap can beat his opponents anywhere on the floor. I believe Millsap will have the edge because he is more aggressive and loves facing better competition.
Center: Al Horford vs Timothy Mozgov
Edge : Al Horford
In my honest opinion, this matchup will be dominated by Al Horford in tonight’s game. Horford is very underrated and has lead Atlanta to their incredible season. It does not matter then Mozgov has the height and weight advantage because Horford has never backed down from anyone he faces. I think Horford could expose Mozgov tonight with beating him to the block, to the ball, and to the rim.
Edge: Atlanta Hawks
Until proven otherwise, I believe the Atlanta Hawks have one of the best benches in the NBA. Taking Pero Antic out of the equation, there are playmakers and team players coming off of the bench. Dennis Schröder is a player that can come off the bench and create chaos for any other team. He is an up and coming star in this league and the Hawks will play with him and Teague as a 1-2 tandem during stretches of games. The Cavaliers have Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson who are very athletic players. Thompson is a rebounding artist and Shumpert is great at driving to the rim. I think Clevaland has a very good bench, but when facing guys like Mike Scott, Dennis Schröder, Kent Bazemore, and others, it is hard to overmatch those guys.
49: The Hawks look to notch their 49th win this season
3: The Hawks could take the season series against Cleveland winning 3 games and losing 1
7: The Cavs are 7th in points per game this season
2: The Hawks are 2nd in points allowed per game this season
217: This is the 217th game between the Hawks and Cavs
In my mind, this game will be one of the best games of the NBA season. It will be a hard-fought game between the two teams because both teams are trying to prove that they are the best. Atlanta wants to win for many reasons, but this win would help their cause in making people believe in their team. The Cavs want to prove they are back to being a top team in the league and to beat the best team in the NBA. Lebron James will have to carry the load, but will he have the help around him to beat Atlanta? No. Atlanta has one of the best coaches in the league and with having two days of rest, this team is fresh and ready to win. Atlanta has played down to some of their opponents recently, but anytime the task is challenging, the Hawks find a way to pull out a victory. Atlanta will win this game and will prove to the NBA world that they are no joke.