NBA Tipsheet: Cleveland should show there's life after LeBron against the Hawks

Kevin Love is now the Cavaliers leader
Kevin Love is now the Cavaliers leader
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It's the early stages of the NBA season and teams are still trying to build chemistry and relationships among the rearranged pieces. Mark Kirwan previews three of Sunday night's skirmishes...

'He'll be hoping to build a rapport with rookie guard Collin Sexton, taken eighth overall in the draft, while the likes of Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood and Tristan Thompson provide a core who can make Cleveland's future brighter than some experts predict. But this year could be tough.'

Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland Cavaliers
October 21, 23:00
Live on Betfair Video and Sky Sports Arena

Though the decision's already been made, there are many still debating whether to leave or remain. No, I'm not talk about Brexit, but the state of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The king has abdicated to the west coast, so attention falls on coach Ty Lue to put together a working team with the pieces left behind.

He can rely on Kevin Love as a strong remainer anyway. The Cavs front office tied down the former Timberwolves forward for the next four years in the offseason.

He'll be hoping to build a rapport with rookie guard Collin Sexton, taken eighth overall in the draft, while the likes of Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood and Tristan Thompson provide a core who can make Cleveland's future brighter than some experts predict.

But this year could be tough.

They've still to clear out a lot of veteran contracts, so making any big moves to improve in-season looks difficult. They lost their opening two games, but there aren't many tougher places to go than Toronto and Minnesota (despite Jimmy Butler's situation), so the visit of Atlanta to Cleveland should provide a pointer as to how much fight is in this team this year.

The Hawks are in a similar tumult, but turned up to 11. Vince Carter, 41 years old, is third in minutes through two games for the Hawks. That is primarily due to John Colins' absence, but it speaks to the work needed in Atlanta.

They've a new coach, a high draft pick in Trae Young, and cap space, but there's a lot to do to be competitive still.

If Cleveland really want to compete for a playoff spot post-LeBron, then they need to show they can beat teams like Atlanta at home. The over line at 229.5 appeals here as all four games involving these teams have gone over so far.

State trying to find what's Golden

Golden State Warriors @ Denver Nuggets
October 22, 01:00

The Warriors started the season in imperious form, brushing aside OKC as they raised their third championship banner in four years, but were made to work in Salt Lake City where Jonas Jerebko changed the Jazz's tune with 0.3 seconds left on the clock to secure a 124-123 win for his new team.

Utah will wonder how it came to that. They led by 16 points with 5.36 left in the fourth, and scored a franchise record 81 points in the first half. Donovan Mitchell had 19 points, but went 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Durant top scored with 38 on the other side.

The champs are still trying to find their rhythm, and their travels continue to the altitude of Denver on Sunday night.

The Nuggets can take encouragement from their first game, a comfortable handling of the Clippers on their home court. Nikola Jokic remains the fulcrum of their offence, with Paul Millsap leading their rebounding efforts.

Despite missing the playoffs last year, they has a strong home record and have enough about them to make this difficult for a Warriors team trying to find their groove still. I'd take the Denver +3.5 at [1.91].

Rockets already heated

Houston Rockets @ LA Clippers
October 22, 02:00

Obviously it's very early in the season but you just get a bad feeling from the Houston start. They were manhandled at home by the coming force of the Anthony Davis and the Pelicans in their first game, and it wasn't even close.

Then last night they find themselves in a real battle with the Lakers - and that was before Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul went at it. They ran out comfortable winners once those two and Brandon Ingram were ejected in the fourth, but up until the game was a blow-for-blow brawl.

They stay in Los Angeles tonight to take on the Clippers, and could've done without another game so soon after last night's controversy.

It's not clear what the fallout will be from the game last night. CP3 could face a penalty for being involved, and if that drops this evening before this game throws in, all bets are off.

But assuming he's available, I think the -1 on the Rockets undervalues them at [1.91]. Back-to-back road games isn't ideal, but at least they haven't had to travel between them, and the turnover on the Clippers roster means they shouldn't be a threat to team with Houston's talent.

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