Just like on the Western side of things, the NBA Eastern Conference Finals will showcase the top two seeds: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks.
Despite dominating almost all NBA competition early on in the regular season, enough so that they could almost shut things down during the second half, the Hawks have looked sluggish thus far in the NBA playoffs. Brooklyn put up more of a fight than was expected while Atlanta couldn’t quite click offensively. The Hawks are an Al Horford buzzer-beater tip in away from facing the Wizards in a Game 7 that would have probably been a toss up. Atlanta’s strength lies in it’s capability to stretch defenses with shooting bigs and great teamwork. The ability of Horford and Paul Millsap to draw defenders away from the rim should bode well for the Hawks against a slower and bigger frontline of Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. Jeff Teague could also cause havoc against a hobbled Irving who is defensively challenged anyway.
Cleveland’s enemy in the playoffs have not really been its opponents, but staying healthy. In their opening series, the Cavs lost Kevin Love just as it seemed his might be flourishing in his new role. In the last series against the Chicago Bulls, Kyrie Irving was the one who was gimpy. Irving is having knee and foot issues that caused him to be ineffective, especially late, in the Bulls series. Cleveland has the guard athleticism in J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to keep Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll off balance. It remains to be seen how effective Irving will be on offense and defense. If he plays well, I don’t think Atlanta has a chance. Having to slow down LeBron will be a feat in its own right. Good luck slowing down two superstars.