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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 22, 2015 at 7:00 AM

If the Atlanta Hawks were ever going to make a statement about being a serious threat to win the 2015 NBA Championship, it would have been Wednesday night in the Eastern Conference series opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everything was lined up perfectly for a big result.

*The Atlanta offense is well designed to exploit Cleveland’s defense

*Kyrie Irving showed up hobbling, and will only be a shadow of his normal self

*The hometown crowd was rabid

*LeBron James teams are known for starting slow before surging late

Smart money was hitting the Hawks late in the day…and a hot start to the game made it seem like a blowout was possible, even inevitable. FINALLY…the regular season version of Atlanta had come out of hibernation and was ready to make headlines.

Instead…for long stretches of the second half…they couldn’t even make any shots!

It was LeBron James and J.R. Smith making all the headlines, as Cleveland exploded to a huge second half lead on their way to a 97-89 victory. It would have been a bigger final margin, but Cleveland started running clock way too early. Atlanta’s only hope came from a Cleveland brain fart!  

Let’s run the numbers before talking about Friday’s must-win spot for the Hawks…



Cleveland 97, Atlanta 89

Shooting Pct: Cleveland 44%, Atlanta 44%

Three-Pointers: Cleveland 10/26, Atlanta 4/23

Free Throws: Cleveland 13/20, Atlanta 17/23

Rebounds: Cleveland 49, Atlanta 37

Turnovers: Cleveland 12, Atlanta 12

Vegas Line: Atlanta by 2.5, total of 199.5

This was a comfortable win for Cleveland (that should have been even more comfortable) because of three-point shooting and rebounding. Atlanta has completely lost its ability to drain open looks from long range. Hard to tell if that’s from fatigue or pressure. The magic is gone. Cleveland was +24 points from behind the arc…and earned themselves additional scoring opportunities with strong rebounding. Atlanta has to make up for their relatively poor rebounding (by playoff standards) by making treys. Going 4 of 23 eliminates that hope.


Friday’s Game Two Line: Atlanta by 1, total of 197

An opener of pick-em was bet up to one right away, probably by the zig-zaggers who love the schedule spot. Home team in a must-win situation…against a visitor that may relax because they’ve already earned a split. You’ll recall Houston won a game like this over the LA Clippers not too long ago. And, the fact that Houston could rally from behind in that series is a reminder that Atlanta is far from a lost cause. Teams can suddenly find their way in a finger snap in this sport. It better happen quick though. Lose Friday…and there’s virtually no way to recover from two early service breaks against LeBron James.

Atlanta has no chance in this series if they don’t start making treys consistently. That was a problem vs. Brooklyn and Washington…but could be overcome because those aren’t particularly good teams by playoff standards. Different story now. Make some shots or go home!

JIM HURLEY will be working very closely with all elements of NETWORK’S team of handicapping experts. Our SCOUTS and SOURCES will clue us into the mindset of both teams (critical in a spot like this!). Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS will be running simulations around the clock based on these new “hobbled” lineups (Atlanta suffered an important injury in Game One). Our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS will let us know what the smart money is doing. It will all add up to a BIG, JUICY WINNER for NETWORK clients!

You can purchase BEST BETS for this game and Friday baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure you check on combination packages that also include the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

We switch sites for the next few days of NBA Playoff action…as fans in Houston and Cleveland get their first up-close look at the Conference Finals. Here’s what’s on tap here in the NOTEBOOK…

Saturday: Game Three Preview…Golden State at Houston

Sunday: Game Three Preview…Atlanta at Cleveland

Monday: Game Four Preview…Golden State at Houston

Tuesday: Game Four Preview…Atlanta at Cleveland

Next week may give us a chance to sneak some baseball into the mix. We’ll see how one-sided things get in the baskets. The championship series is already locked into an early June tip-off for the TV networks. Gotta sell those commercials and create those movie tie-ins!


Be sure to follow:

Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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