Hawks vs. Cavs Preview: Q&A With Joe Gabriele

Friday, December 6, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks (10-10) will take on the Cavaliers (6-12) tonight at Philips Arena at 7:30. Both teams are coming off of Wednesday night wins, and the Cavs are riding a two-game win streak into Atlanta. I sent Joe Gabriele of Cavs.com some questions to get a preview of what to expect in tonight’s game from Cleveland.

The Cavs offense has struggled early this season (27th in ppg/28th in OffRtg). What has been the reason for the early offensive woes, and what can they do to be more effective?

Early this season, between injuries and a new system, the Cavs have had some problems finding a consistent lineup and rotation. And Mike Brown has stressed defense first, meaning the offensive development will lag a little behind. And as much as anything, it’ll take the Cavs young guards a little while to learn how to play with a dominant big man like Andrew Bynum. Once they do – and they solidify players’ concrete roles and the overall rotation – the offense will come. The Cavs have too many good offensive players for it not to.

Kyrie Irving and Jeff Teague will face-off in a match-up of two of the top young point guards in the Eastern Conference. How do you see that match-up going, and what can Irving do to be effective against Teague and the Hawks?

Both players have the ability to get wherever they want on the court, so it’ll be a fun matchup at the point on Friday. Teague has the victories: as a starter, he’s 6-2 against the Cavaliers. But Kyrie has the numbers: he’s averaging 25.4 points (shooting .538 [14-26] from beyond the arc), 4.2 boards and 6.0 assists in five career games against Atlanta.  It’ll be an interesting battle to watch.

In the frontcourt, Al Horford and Paul Millsap have been excellent for the Hawks, but will be at a size disadvantage tonight, especially against Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum. How can those two provide the Cavs with an advantage on both offense and defense?

The Cavaliers bigs – Bynum, Varejao and especially Tristan Thompson – have been playing very well lately. Thompson and Varejao each recorded double-doubles in Cleveland’s previous win over Denver. But they’ll have their hands full with Horford and Milsap, who’ve always made up for size disadvantage by being tough and crafty in the block. Varejao relies on his non-stop motor and intelligence on both ends – and his offensive game is greatly improved with Mike Brown giving him the green light. Bynum is skilled on both ends of the floor, and even when he’s not blocking shots, can alter them just by his presence.

What did the Cavs do differently or better in their last two games in wins over the Bulls and Nuggets?

The Cavaliers are beginning to find their roles and, again, the rotation is beginning to become solidified. Dion Waiters, now comfortable in his bench role, scored 20-plus points in three of his last four games. Varejao has also been excellent off the bench. But if there’s one reason for the Cavaliers’ success over the past two games, it’s that they’ve been able to establish Bynum early and the team has fed off that. But it’s taken a while to get used to the spacing and pacing that comes with inserting a big like Bynum into the starting lineup.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

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