LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with center Tristan Thompson (13) after a 106-101 win over the Chicago Bulls in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Reuters/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks were the best team in the East for all of 2015, but they aren’t expected to reach the NBA Finals by most observers. The majority of experts have picked them to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Atlanta has garnered some support, and certainly more than the Houston Rockets, who are the heaviest of underdogs in the Western Conference Finals. But the majority of expert predictions have LeBron James and the Cavs moving on to the next round. An appearance in the finals would mark five in a row for James.

Only the Golden State Warriors won more regular-season games than the Hawks, who finished the season at 60-22, but the final record only tells part of the story. Cleveland played much better over the final few months of the year, going 34-9 in their last 43 games. Atlanta went 29-14 over that same stretch, including 11-10 in their final 21 games.

Even after losing Kevin Love in Game 4 of the first round and dealing with injuries to Kyrie Irving, Cleveland has been the more impressive team in the playoffs. After sweeping the Boston Celtics, they beat the Chicago Bulls in six games, winning twice by at least 15 points. Atlanta needed six games to beat the No.8-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round, and their six-game, second-round series with the Washington Wizards could have gone either way. The Hawks' last three victories over the Wizards came by a combined nine points.

The betting odds for the series are an indication that the public believes Cleveland will beat Atlanta. The line for the series has moved in the Cavs’ favor since the Hawks clinched, making the No.2 seed a -220 favorite to reach the finals.

Below are expert predictions for Cleveland vs. Atlanta.


J.A. Adande: Cavs in 6

Chad Ford: Cavs in 6

Tom Haberstroh: Cavs in 7

Marc Stein: Cavs in 7

FOX Sports

Rick Barry: Hawks N/A

Dale Ellis: Hawks N/A

Eric Musselman: Cavs in 7

Bill Reiter: Cavs in 5

CBS Sports

Ken Berger: Hawks in 7

Zach Harper: Cavs in 6

Matt Moore: Hawks in 6

Sheridan Hoops

Mark Heisler: Hawks in 7

Danny Schayes: Cavs in 6

Chris Sheridan: Cavs in 6

New York Times

Benjamin Hoffman: Cavs in 6


Sam Smith: Cavs in 6

USA Today

Sam Amick: Cavs in 7

International Business Times

Bobby Ilich: Cavs in 5

Greg Price: Cavs in 6

Anthony Riccobono: Cavs in 6