Hawks vs. Cavs: Odds, Hot Takes and Top Storylines for Play-in GameApril 15, 2022
Hawks vs. Cavs: Odds, Hot Takes and Top Storylines for Play-in Game
The Cleveland Cavaliers' home-court advantage for Friday's Eastern Conference play-in game is the only edge they appear to have.
The Atlanta Hawks come into Ohio as a favorite on the point spread, with a 3-1 head-to-head series record from the regular season and a victory in their last game on Wednesday.
Atlanta also carries an edge in postseason experience compared to the young Cavaliers. Trae Young led the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Cleveland should benefit from the return of Jarrett Allen in some capacity, but how much the big man with the injured finger affects the games is unknown.
The winner of Friday's game faces a quick turnaround to Sunday, when it will face the top seed Miami Heat in Game 1 of the first-round series.
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
Spread: Atlanta (-2.5)
Moneyline: Atlanta (-138; bet $138 to win $100); Cleveland (+118; bet $100 to win $118)
Atlanta is the expected favorite for a few reasons.
The Hawks won the regular-season series by a 3-1 margin, and they are the more experienced team when it comes to the postseason.
Trae Young's side also has momentum in its corner after handily beating the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night at home.
Cleveland comes into Friday night off a defeat against the Brooklyn Nets. The Cavs were the only underdog to cover the spread, but they never took the lead in the fourth quarter at Barclays Center.
Atlanta put up over 120 points in each of its three victories over Cleveland. The wins all came in different circumstances on New Years' Eve, February 15 and March 31.
Cleveland's lone win in the regular-season series occurred in the second game of the season. The Cavs won that game 101-95.
All three of the contests won by the Hawks had more than 223 points, which is a good sign for the over to hit on Friday.
The Cavs certainly have a chance to win inside their home arena, but the Hawks' recent track record against them and their playoff experience could be the deciding factor.
Jarrett Allen Trying to Make Return to Cavs Lineup
Jarrett Allen has not played for the Cavaliers since March 6.
The Cleveland big man is not at full strength, but he is trying to return from his finger injury on Friday to give the Cavs the best shot of winning the game.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, "Allen considers himself 50-50 on returning to the lineup."
Allen's official status will not be known until closer to tipoff, but it seems like he will try to give it a go on Friday night.
The question surrounding that decision is whether an injured Allen is better than not having him at all.
Allen gives the Cavs another rim protector to go up against Clint Capela and to guard against Trae Young's drives into the paint.
He may not have much of an offensive impact because of his injury status. That may lead to him being a placeholder in offensive sets, or someone who does little outside of attempt layups.
The other side of that discussion is that if Allen feels he can play, he should feel healthy enough to give his maximum effort while on the floor.
A center coming off a fractured finger feels like he would have more of an impact defensively, instead of as an offensive dynamo at least in his first game back.
If Allen helps the Cavs advance to the first round, he could do more offensively as the games go on against Miami.
Atlanta Can Win Game from Three-Point Line
Atlanta thrived from three-point range in its last two victories over Cleveland.
The Hawks made a combined 31 three-point shots on February 15 and March 31 to pick up victories in the play-in standings race.
Kevin Huerter, Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic did most of the damage in the March 31 victory. They combined for 12 of the 17 makes from deep.
Huerter finished the regular season with at least three three-point makes in six of his last nine games, and he eclipsed that mark again on Wednesday.
Bogdanovic hit a trio of triples off the bench against Charlotte. He went 5-for-13 from beyond the arc in the last two wins over Cleveland.
Bogdanovic thrived in his sixth-man role since Hawks head coach Nate McMillan switched around the team's rotation.
De'Andre Hunter and Danilo Gallinari knocked down two threes each on Wednesday, and they could be extra X-factors from deep if the game turns into a high-scoring affair.
Young always has the potential to break out for a 30-plus-point game as well. Although, he went 1-for-7 from three and struggled with his shot in the first quarter against the Hornets.
Atlanta's top playmaker produced 71 points in his last two trips to the hardwood against Cleveland.
The Hawks have not been great defending the three-point shot all season, but they held Charlotte to 31.7 percent on Wednesday.
If the Hawks win the three-point battle again, they should land a first-round matchup with the Heat.
Cavs Need Caris LeVert and Kevin Love to Make Larger Impact
Caris LeVert and Kevin Love combined for 26 points in Tuesday night's defeat to the Nets.
LeVert and Love have the potential to join Darius Garland in the 20-point column and hurt the Hawks from different angles.
LeVert was brought in from the Indiana Pacers to be the No. 2 scorer behind Garland after Collin Sexton went down with his season-ending injury.
He did not play well in his last outing against the Hawks, as he produced just nine points on nine field-goal attempts.
Love is known for his three-point shot, but he could also be vital on the boards if Allen can't play, or is ineffective for stretches because of his finger injury.
Love only had eight points off the bench in the March 31 clash with the Hawks, but he is facing a defense that conceded 13 three-point shots on Wednesday.
The experienced forward should have better luck from deep than LeVert, but it would not hurt if both players were aggressive against Atlanta's top defensive weakness.
Cleveland can't just rely on Garland and Evan Mobley for most of the scoring. They were responsible for 53 of the 108 points scored against the Nets.
If the Hawks put up another high point total on the Cavs defense, Love and LeVert need to chip in more to give the home side a fighting chance.
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