May 01, 2016

A look at the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks that begins Monday (with regular-season and playoff records):

No. 1 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (57-25, 4-0) vs. No. 4 ATLANTA HAWKS (48-34, 4-2)

Season series: Cavaliers, 3-0. Cleveland had a pair of double-digit wins at home and pulled out a two-point overtime victory at Atlanta, sweeping the regular-season series for the first time since 2004-05. LeBron James averaged 27.3 points and shot 58 percent, adding 11 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. The Hawks shot better than 40 percent just once and finished at just 40.7 percent in the three games.

Story line: Looking every bit the East favorite, the Cavaliers beat Detroit 4-0 in the first round to set up this rematch of last year's Eastern Conference finals, which the Cavs also swept. The Cavs also swept the Hawks in the 2009 playoffs, their only other playoff meeting.

Key Matchup: Kyrie Irving vs. Jeff Teague. Irving was already banged up by the time these teams met last year, a round before eventually breaking his kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but looks in top form now. He averaged 27.5 points in the first round, second only to Indiana's Paul George, and was 16 of 34 from 3-point range. Teague averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game against Boston and was the Hawks' top player against the Cavs in the regular season, averaging 20.7 points and 7.3 assists.

X-Factor: Kevin Love. Now further in the playoffs than he's ever been after his season ended with a shoulder injury in the final game of the first round last year, he had a good series against the Pistons. He averaged 18.8 points and 12 rebounds against Detroit and will be battling a pair of All-Stars in Al Horford and Paul Millsap against Atlanta.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.

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