NBA Saturday March 4 Preview: Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs

Atlanta v Cleveland | Saturday, March 4, 1pm (AEDT), Philips Arena, Atlanta

One of the NBA’s leading offences takes on one of the league’s better defences when LeBron James and the Cavaliers visit Dwight Howard’s Atlanta Hawks in an all-Estern Conference tussle.

The defending NBA champions average a healthy 111.1 PPG, the third highest mark in the league while the more defensive-minded Hawks concede just 104.2 PPG, the 9th best mark in the NBA. 

Atlanta (33-26, 16-12 home), due to play Dallas on Thursday (AEDT), are second in the southeast division behind the Wizards.

Former Magic and Lakers star Howard (pictured below) has been monumental for the Hawks under the glass where he leads the team with 12.9 rebounds per game. 

The Cavaliers (41-17, 15-11 home), due to play the Celtics on Thursday (AEDT), bounce into March on the back of a fabulous February where they had two players average more than 25.0 PPG.

James led the way with 25.9 PPG while Australian-born guard Kyrie Irving averaged 25.4 PPG. 

The Verdict

The Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers lacked a killer punch without James in Sunday's double-digit defeat to the Bulls but with a healthy James back on the court, parity has been restored in the East.

James is vital to Tyronn Lue’s side and his team-leading 8.9 assists per game and 25.7 PPG negate the absence of the injured Kevin Love

Unibet Odds: Atlanta 2.25 Cleveland 1.67

Tip: Cleveland

Line tip: Cleveland -2.5 (1.87)

New Orleans v San Antonio | Saturday, March 4, 1.30pm (ASEDT), Smoothie King Center, New Orleans

The arrival of former Kings star DeMarcus Cousins (pictured above) was expected to turn New Orleans into ‘boogie wonderland’ but those lofty expectations have yet to come to fruition.

Since the blockbuster trade, which saw the explosive big man traded to New Orleans, the Pelicans have gone 0-3 and Cousins’ notorious ill-discipline will see him miss more game time.

Cousins was served an automatic one-match suspension after incurring an 18th technical foul for the season against the Thunder.

He will subsequently miss the Pelicans’ match against the Pistons on Thursday (AEDT), but is due to return to the court against the visiting Spurs on Saturday.

New Orleans (23-37, 14-16 home), who are chasing the 8th seed in the loaded Western Conference, could use an added boost from the man they call boogie with the Cousins-Davis combination yet to elevate the Kings to the level they were hoping for.

It’s early days however, and Cousins’ developing combination with guard Jrue Holiday, who leads the Pelicans with 7.4 assists per game, will be crucial to their chances of featuring in the post-season.

The visiting San Antonio Spurs (45-13, 26-7, away), due to play the Pacers on Thursday (AEDT), could have another Aussie on the roster with former Golden State Warriors centre Andrew Bogut expected to hold talks with the Spurs after being waived by the 76ers.

The Aussie big man's rebounding and passing skills would be a welcome addition to the Spurs who share the ball better than anyone else in the NBA. 

Bogut’s Boomers teammate Patty Mills (pictured above) continues to play a pivotal role guiding the Spurs’ all-important second unit.

The Aussie guard is getting plenty of game time and is equal second on the team with 3.3 assists per game. 

The Verdict

The Pelicans are destined to dominate the league one day with their twin towers of Cousins and Davis but they’re a work in progress at the moment.

San Antonio are phenomenal away from home (26-7) and led by leading scorer and league MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard (25.6 PPG), the Spurs should be too strong for the Pelicans.

Unibet Odds: New Orleans 3.25 San Antonio 1.36

Tip: San Antonio 

Line tip: New Orleans +6.5 (1.91)

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