How The Hawks Can Beat The Cavaliers


The Atlanta Hawks find themselves in a familiar sitiuation: getting matched up with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs once again.

Coming off an excellent first-round series win against the Boston Celtics, the Atlanta Hawks find themselves in a situation they know all too well. They are playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Last year, the short-handed Hawks just couldn’t find their rhythm against the even more short-handed Cavs (missing star players Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) and got swept. Both teams have kept the same rosters for the most part; however, this time, the series will be much more competitive. Here is why:

Availability of Perimeter Defenders

The last time Atlanta played Cleveland, the two best perimeter defenders on the Hawks were injured. DeMarre Carroll hurt his knee early in the series and could never recover fully and Thabo Sefolosha was nursing a broken leg. This forced coach Mike Budenholzer to make various attempts to find someone who could stop LeBron James and all were unsuccessful.

This time, it should be a completely different story.

Sefolosha has made an All-Defensive team before, but that is nowhere close to describe his defensive prowess. According to KL Chouinard of, Sefolosha has held opponents to remarkable 30.3 percent shooting outside of 15 feet.

Not only will he be lethal while guarding LeBron, but he will also give knockdown shooters such as J.R. Smith and Channing Frye a tough time. Also, he has been in plenty of playoff action in the past and his veteran mentality and leadership on the court will be highly beneficial to the team. Sefolosha changes the game completely for the Hawks.

Along with Sefolosha, Kent Bazemore has developed into a solid and stronger defender. He is now able to utilize his athleticism to stay in front of players on defense, rather than gamble for the steal. Both players bring great hustle and they will be crucial for the Hawks if they want successfully contain James and the Cavaliers.

Here is an example of Sefolosha’s tremendous defensive effort while he was playing in the Finals:

Jeff Teague Staying Aggressive

Jeff Teague has had some memorable moments against Cleveland. His effort on offense will prove to be pivotal for the Hawks as he can work Kyrie Irving with ease. He averages 22 points per game while playing the Cavs and if he keeps that up, things will work out for Atlanta. If he keeps driving to the basket, only beneficial situations can play out.

For the majority, Teague will either score, get fouled, or attract the attention of the Cavalier big men and then pass the ball out to shooters. When Teague plays well, it takes pressure off of the Dennis Schroder and that allows Dennis to perform at a higher rate. On the other end, Teague has developed into one of the premier defensive point guards in the league. Don’t be surprised if Irving has a tough time scoring.

If we see the same Playoff Teague that Hawks fans are used to, the team as a whole will thrive.

Crash the Glass on Offense and Defense

The biggest key to a series win is to grab rebounds. The Hawks did an excellent job in the first round, totaling more rebounds than the Celtics in four of the six games played. Boxing out and keeping Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov and LeBron James from grabbing boards is priority No. 1. Any NBA team can score if they get a second or third chance, especially the Cavaliers.

Realistically, if Thompson had been contained last year, the Hawks would have won one or maybe two games in the conference finals. The duty to grab rebounds is not just on the Hawks’ big men, but everyone on the court. That does not mean that Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver need to crash the glass at full speed, but they at least need to be aware in case the ball bounces to the backcourt.

One cannot emphasize how important rebounds are in this series. Paul Millsap is averaging nearly double-digit rebounds per game this postseason. If he, along with Al Horford and Mike Muscala, can keep up the great rebounding of late, they will propel the team towards the direction of a series win.

The Atlanta Hawks versus Cleveland Cavaliers series is bound to draw national attention. If the perimeter defenders do their job, while Teague stays aggressive and the big-men grab rebounds, the Hawks will make things interesting. This powerhouse versus underdog matchup might just turn out the same way it does in movies.