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Atlanta Hawks vs Cleveland Cavaliers prediction and pick for Thursday night's game. Handicapper Jonathan Macri breaks down the Atlanta Hawks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, plus Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets, in his best picks for Thursday's NBA slate.
ANALYSIS

Atlanta Hawks vs Cleveland Cavaliers: East Teams Heading in Opposite Directions Face Off

  • When: 7:30 pm ET
  • Where to Watch: League Pass

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Hawks vs. Cavaliers Line Movement

Atlanta Hawks vs Cleveland Cavaliers Prediction

Regardless of how things have gone lately, this season has been a feel-good success story for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A team that almost everyone picked to finish amongst the bottom five in the NBA along with the Pistons, Rockets, Thunder, and Magic - all of whom have made good on those dire predictions - Cleveland said to hell with expectations and forced their way into the playoff picture. They've done it with grit and toughness in the face of adversity, keeping a top-five defense afloat amidst injury after injury, establishing a culture in a place many thought would be impossible. Most importantly, they found their next potential generational star in Rookie of the Year frontrunner Evan Mobley.

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Keeping all that in mind, the sun is about to set on their magical run, at least for this season. It starts with injuries, which have gotten too great to overcome. Mobley joins starting center and All-Star Jarrett Allen on the shelf for this game. Along with part-time starter Dean Wade and key reserve Rajon Rondo, the Cavs are missing nearly half of their normal rotation.

It has all taken its toll. Since they reached a high watermark of 35-21 nearly two months ago, the Cavs have won seven games against 13 losses in their last 20 games. They have not beaten a playoff or play-in team on the road since defeating the Hornets in Charlotte back on February 4. Now, they head into Atlanta to face a Hawks team that is 11-7 with the 12th best net rating in the league since the break.

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The Hawks also have everything on the line, with the ability to clinch the play-in tonight and keep pace with the Hornets and Nets to try and get out of the 10th seed or maybe even the 9/10 game altogether. They'll take care of business at home. Give the points.

Atlanta Hawks vs Cleveland Cavaliers Pick

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Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets Prediction

  • When: 7:30 pm ET
  • Where to Watch: TNT

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Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets Line Movement

Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets Prediction

With the way the standings are shaping up, there's an argument that the Milwaukee Bucks would be better off losing this game.

If they win, the Bucks would pull to within a half a game of the Heat for first place in the East, and also remain at least one game clear of the third-place Sixers. The Nets, meanwhile, would drop into a tie with the Hornets for eighth and ninth place and remain at least two games back of the seventh-place Cavs. It would also extinguish any dwindling hopes of a last gasp run at the 6th spot.

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All that sets up for this: a better than decent chance that the Bucks and Nets face off in the first round of the playoffs, assuming Brooklyn can graduate from the play-in - no guarantee at this point given how porous their defense continues to be.

That's why the Bucks are the pick here. They don't know the meaning of ducking an opponent, as they proved last season when they willingly played themselves into a first-round matchup with a Heat team that had eliminated them the previous year. The Nets just continue to disappoint at home, with their latest effort in Brooklyn resulting in a win against the Pistons but one in which they didn't cover for the 29th time in 37 games - easily the worst mark ATS in the league.

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It won't get any better here, although it's worth keeping an eye out for the status of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is probable and expected to play. Assuming he does, the Bucks are the easy choice.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Brooklyn Nets Pick

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Article Author

NBA

Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.

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