Cleveland Cavaliers @ Atlanta Hawks
In a pivotal late season NBA Sundays matchup, the current 6th seed Atlanta Hawks who continue to jockey with the Milwaukee Bucks for playoffs positioning, will play host to the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who are in a positional battle of their own with the Boston Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers and the Hawks split two games this season, but the Cavaliers swept the Hawks the last two years in the NBA Playoffs.
LeBron James will face off against Dwight Howards
Despite a recent slump, the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers are still on track to earn one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, with many still viewing the Cavaliers as the team to beat in the East.
That belief starts with 13-time NBA All-Star LeBron James, who is having another MVP-calibre season. James is on pace to become the first player to average 25 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, while shooting better than 54% from the floor.
The 32-year-old recently passed NBA Legend Shaquille O’Neal to move into seventh place on the career scoring list. LeBron James’ partner in crime Kyrie Irving is having the best season of his six-year NBA career, averaging better than 25 points, and ranking 12th in the league.
The last time that the Cavaliers played the Hawks, Irving put on an absolute clinic going for 43 points, 9 assists and 4 steals in 36 minutes of action, and he will be looking to repeat the feat this Sunday.
After earning his first trip to the NBA All-Star Game as a member of the Cavaliers, 28-year-old Kevin Love underwent knee surgery which kept him out for six weeks. He is now back in the lineup though as Cleveland regroups for the playoffs and prepares to reach its third NBA Finals in a row.
Both sides have plenty to play for as the regular season draws to a close
Player to watch: LeBron James
32-year-old James is currently leading his team in points per game (26.3), assists per game (8.7), and steals per game (1.2).
In his 14th season in the NBA, he is not only one of the deadliest offensive active players, he has also developed into a versatile defender, making him one of the most entertaining players to watch in action.
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Cleveland will be hoping to secure the No 1 seed in the East
After reaching the NBA Conference Finals in 2015 and the semifinals in 2016, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers on both occasions, the Atlanta Hawks underwent a makeover last summer. Stars Jeff Teague and Al Horford, longtime teammates in Atlanta, moved on to the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics, respectively.
Fourth-year German guard Dennis Schröder replaced Teague as a starter and eight-time NBA All-Star Dwight Howard was signed to shore up the paint. At just 23 years old, Schröder has blossomed in his fourth NBA season, leading the Hawks in scoring (18.1 per game) and assists (6.3 per game – 16th in the league).
Howard has been a force on the glass, ranking in the top five in the league in rebounding, while Paul Millsap was named an All-Star for the fourth straight season, all with the Atlanta Hawks. One of the more surprising developments this season has certainly been the emergence of fourth-year guard Tim Hardaway Jr. as a legitimate offensive weapon.
The 25-year-old is averaging over 14 points per game. The Hawks are on track to make the playoffs for the 10th straight season, but they will have to watch their back from the fierce competition of the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, who all compete for only three playoffs spots.
The Hawks have limped into the final stretch, losing 8 of their last 10 games, making this Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers crucial.
The game will be live on BT Sport with tip off at 8.30pm
Player to Watch: Paul Millsap
Millsap returned to action last Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, playing 26 minutes off the bench.
Hawks fans will be hoping he is healthy on Sunday night to stop the Cavaliers’ primary offensive weapon, LeBron James.
The 32-year-old is a solid defender, who is also able to score over 18 points on a nightly basis.
Who wins? Tweet your prediction using #NBASUNDAYS
‘NBA Sundays presented by NBA 2K17’ on BT Sport – a live NBA game every Sunday at 8.30pm. This week on 9 April the Atlanta Hawks will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on BT Sport 1.