CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Cavaliers face the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Tony Zarrella provides five things to watch in the series.
A year ago the Cavaliers met the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Atlanta was the top seed, which of course meant nothing as the Cavs took 'em out in four straight. The Hawks haven't improved since then. In fact, they were ready to start over back in February; all of their big guns were for sale at the trading deadline. But here they are, after holding off the Celtics in Round One, looking for a little revenge for 2015.
Eight Isn't Enough
But it would sure be nice to run the streak to eight. The Cavaliers have beaten the Hawks seven straight times, including last year's playoff sweep and three straight during the 2015-2016 regular season. It's obviously asking a lot to expect the Cavs to continue piling up W's without any L's, even after they swept through the Pistons in the first round. But they clearly have the Hawks' number.
Give It A Rest
The biggest challenge the Cavaliers face heading into Game One on Monday may be too much rest. They completed their sweep of the Pistons last Sunday, giving them eight days between games, while the Hawks were battling to beat Boston. Sure, the Cavs have been practicing, but it's not the same. They may need two quarters in Game One to find their rhythm again.
The Big 3
LeBron was the only healthy member of the Big 3 when the Cavaliers swept through Atlanta in 2015. Kevin Love had been Olynyk-ed, and Kyrie was dealing with tendinitis in his left knee. So, in a sign of things to come later in their playoff run, LeBron put the Cavs on his back, nearly averaging a triple-double with 30.3 points, 11 rebounds and more than 9 assists in the series. This time he'll have a lot more help.
He was huge in the opening round, killing the Pistons with clutch 3's, but this is a new series, and J.R. didn't shoot well against the Hawks this season. Then again, if any team can give him a wake-up call, it's Atlanta. You remember Game One against the Hawks last year. All Smith did was throw down a franchise-record eight 3-pointers.
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