Viewers' Guide: Closer look at tonight's Fan Night matchup
Kevin Cottrell Jr., Special to NBA.com
Hawks vs. Cavaliers (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
Dating back to the 2015-16 season, a defending champ started the season as the league’s last unbeaten team. At 6-0, however, the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers are off to their best start in 40 seasons. The last time the Cavs got off to this hot of a start was the 1976-77 season (when they began 8-0). Not impressed? This is also the first 6-0 start in LeBron James’ career (his best start with the Miami Heat was a 5-0 mark). Atlanta looks to stand in their way of Cavs’ march to match (or best) that 40-year mark, but the Cavs are on a path to defend their title.
Flying Under the Radar
The new look Hawks, led by Atlanta native Dwight Howard, travel to Cleveland looking to steal the first-of-four meetings with the Cavs. The Hawks lead the league with 12.2 steals per game and enter Tuesday’s matchup with at least 10 steals in every game this season, including a season-high 16 Saturday night vs Houston. The Cavs lack of point guard depth will be challenged at times against a Hawks team that also leads the league in forced turnovers (9.5 per game).
LeBron James and J.R. Smith recently shared the stage to encourage Ohio residents to exercise their right to vote. On election night, the two may share the stage yet again as they close in on individual career milestones. James (26,970 points) is 30 points away from becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 27,000-point plateau (31 years, 314 days). (Kobe Bryant currently holds the record at 32 years, 160 days). Smith (1,696 made 3-pointers) needs four 3-pointers to reach 1,700 for his career, a mark achieved by 15 players.
Ohio-native LeBron James enters tonight’s game averaging 22.8 points, 10.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds per game. While James is on pace to post career highs in assists and rebound per game, he’s the second leading scorer on the team (trailing Kyrie Irving’s 23.0 ppg). James has played a more balanced game in the early going, having led his teams in scoring in every season of his career. Meanwhile, Hawks newcomer (and Atlanta-native) Dwight Howard knows what it takes to get to The Finals, and is looking to do so for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Howard is averaging 17.0 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 2.0 bpg while shooting 61.7 percent. His five double-doubles are tied for the league lead and he’s posted his highest scoring and rebounding average since the 2013-14 season.
Both Teams Played Hard!
Dating back to the 2015 playoffs, the Cavs have won their last 11 meetings versus the Hawks. They swept Atlanta in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals, won all three meetings last season and swept the Hawks again last season (this time in the East semifinals). While the Cavs hope to continue their winning ways, the Hawks seek their first win over Cleveland since March of 2015 and first win at Quicken Loans Arena since December of 2014.