The Atlanta Hawks’ key players came up short on Sunday night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised through the game to lead 1-0 in the Eastern Conference semis.
While the Hawks made an admirable effort coming from 18 points down to lead in the 4th quarter with eight minutes remaining, the Cavaliers were seemingly on cruise control throughout the game.
LeBron James had 25 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds, yet was content with distributing from the perimeter until the final stages. He rarely drove unless on fast breaks,and didn’t bully the 200 pound Kent Bazemore in the post regularlyas he did on one occasion (see the 50 second mark ). I’m a huge Lebron fan, but I can’t help but think he could play from the post just as Jordan did in his later years (except the former is 250 plus pounds!).
Bazemore had 15 points and 8 rebounds, but missed all 4 threes that he took in the final quarter as well as turning it over twice in that period. I think he’d be more valuable as a 2 guard, who can defend, shoot threes sparingly and have less responsibility.
The Hawks’ All-Star frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Al Horford combined for just 27 points on 32 shots, while Kyle Korver couldn’t get the ball, with just 3 points and only one field goal attempt.
The lone bright spot for Atlanta was their backup point guard Dennis Schroder, who had 27 points, 15 of which came in the second half which contributed to the Hawk’s late run. He sped past most defenders on drives, and finished at the rim with his long arms (6’7″wingspan) although Kyrie had a nice block on him. Schroder also hit 5/10 three pointers, and had six assists.
For the Cavaliers, Kevin Love hit big 3’s but shot inefficently overall. I miss the tubby Love that dominated on the interior and in the post for the Timberwolves early in his career, instead of the modern skinny Love that is primarily a shooter and defensive rebounder.
Kyrie Irving had a solid day for the Cavs, scoring 21 points, including 9 in the 4th quarter, while his understudy Matthew Dellavedova had a few beautiful assists (being an Aussie, I have some Delly bias, as I think he deserves a big payday this summer as a defensive playmaker who can shoot).
Tristan Thompson was a beast, pulling in 14 rebounds, with 7 on the offensive end, an impressive feat considering he was going against premier rebounders in Millsap and Horford. The Hawks could really do with the big body of Tiago Splitter, who is out injured after hip surgery, to keep guys like Thompson and Love off the boards.
The Hawks made a late run based on Schroder’s play, but in the end the Cavs barely broke a sweat. The series remains in Cleveland for Game 2, and unless the Hawks’ All-Stars are more assertive and feed off of Schroder’s success, Celeveland are in for another breezy evening.