Atlanta Hawks at Cleveland Cavaliers (-7.5, 200.5)
Series tied 0-0
The Atlanta Hawks were no match for Cleveland during last season’s Eastern Conference finals and attempt to put up a better fight this time around when they meet the Cavaliers in the conference semifinals. The quest begins Monday in Cleveland and the Hawks certainly haven’t forgotten that they were swept last season and suffered a 30-point shellacking in the final game of the series.
Forward LeBron James operated at will in the conference finals by averaging 30.3 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists. James continued his dominance of the Hawks this season with averages of 27.3 points, 11 rebounds and 7.8 assists in three games – all won by Cleveland – but isn’t expecting another cakewalk. “Nothing is easy in the postseason,” James told reporters. “There’s too much work, both on the floor and mentally that you have to do to prepare for a playoff series understanding how the competition is going to be at its highest level. Easy should never even come into play when you’re talking about playoff basketball or basketball in general at this level.” The Cavaliers swept the Detroit Pistons in the opening round while Atlanta ousted the Boston Celtics in a six-game series.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The Cavaliers opened as eight-point favorites in the opening game of their second round playoff series – the line dropped to -7.5 as bettors put their initial support behind the Hawks. The total opened at 200 and went up as high as 201.5 before settling down at 200.5 on Sunday evening. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE HAWKS (52-36, 45-42-1 ATS, 39-49 O/U): Small forward Kent Bazemore will be under the microscope after averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the series against Boston as he will draw the defensive assignment of slowing down James. Bazemore hasn’t been shy about criticizing James in the past and is one of the Atlanta players who has a chip on his shoulders due to last season’s playoff beat down. “You got to amp yourself up and you can’t go in humble, I guess,” Bazemore told reporters. “You got to make yourself angry and do whatever you got to do to accept that challenge, because he is a freight train and brings it and comes with everything he has, so you have to do the same to hang in there.”
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (61-25, 39-44-3 ATS, 43-43 O/U): Point guard Kyrie Irving was superb during the sweep of the Pistons and topped 30 points twice while averaging 27.5 for the series. Irving knocked down the big shots as he continues to show that someday he will be the team’s undisputed closer instead of sharing the role with James. “At the end of the day we have two of the best closers in the game playing on one team,” Irving told reporters. “You have a 6-8 monster who can penetrate and get anywhere he wants on the floor, and then myself having that confidence in those situations. Regardless of who the play is drawn up for, that’s up to (coach Tyronn Lue).”
* Hawks are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
* Cavaliers are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 Conference Semifinals games.
* Under is 6-0 in Hawks last 6 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game.
* Over is 8-2 in Cavaliers last 10 vs. NBA Southeast.
* Over is 6-1 in the last 7 meetings in Cleveland.
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs (-7.5, 202.5)
Spurs lead series 1-0
The San Antonio Spurs annihilated Oklahoma City in the series opener and attempt to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals when they host the Thunder on Monday. San Antonio held a 23-point lead after the opening quarter of Game 1 and All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge had a huge game with 38 points as the Spurs blitzed the Thunder from the outset.
San Antonio led 73-40 at halftime while establishing supremacy over the Thunder but shooting guard Danny Green isn’t expecting things to be so easy in Game 2. “We know that they’re going to come out super-aggressive next game, they’re gonna make adjustments, and we’re not gonna shoot as well as we did,” Green told reporters. “It’s one game. It’s not a momentum thing. Each game is different. Every game is its own playoff series. So it’s not like it’s going to carry over to next game.” Oklahoma City stars Kevin Durant (16 points on 6-of-15 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (14 points, 5-of-19) both had woeful games as Spurs’ two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard took turns defending each player. “Me personally, I never look at the guy in front of me,” Westbrook told reporters. “I look at the help to see what’s the next move. Not a big problem, just got to find ways to read the help a little bit better and make better decisions.”
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The Spurs opened as seven-point favorites and the books were forced to bump them up to -7.5. The total opened at 202.5 and has yet to move. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (59-29, 40-47-1 ATS, 43-45 O/U): Durant has scored less than 20 points in two of Oklahoma City’s six playoff games and wasn’t the least bit interested to share his feelings after the horrendous loss. “I’m not telling you,” Durant said in a response to a question about his emotions. “Because it’s over with. Move on. We just move past it and figure out what we have to do better. No crazy emotions. It’s not like we were upset and screaming at each other in the locker room after the game. That’s not going to make things better.” Westbrook’s 14 points and 26.3 field-goal percentage were his lowest figures in six games this postseason.
ABOUT THE SPURS (72-15, 48-39 ATS, 37-48-2 O/U): Aldridge was a force by going 18-of-23 from the field and even knocked down a 3-point basket for the first time this season. “It was just one of those nights,” Aldridge told reporters. “I can’t take credit for it. I was just trying to play confident and ended up making some plays that I probably won’t make the next game. It was enough for me.” Leonard also shot superbly by making 10-of-13 from the field – the Spurs shot 60.7 percent as a team – and scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half.
* Thunder are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
* Spurs are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 Conference Semifinals games.
* Over is 7-1 in Thunder last 8 road games.
* Thunder are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.