The Atlanta Hawks don’t match up well with the Cleveland Cavaliers, although that probably wasn’t the problem as they endured a record breaking three-point performance from the Cavs, making everything look so easy even LeBron James was making them.
Yes, James, who has struggled with his long range shot this season, hit 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, part of 25 three pointers by the Cavaliers, a new playoff record, and actually a new high for any kind of NBA game. Winning 123-98 after relaxing in the second half, the Cavs hit 18 three pointers in the first half alone, leading by 38 at the peak of the beatdown, and finishing the half with a 74-38 lead. Even the Hawks Twitter account was busy making fun of the team, trying not to take things too seriously.
J.R. Smith finished with 7 three pointers and is making 52.8% of them in the postseason. The Cavaliers, going 2-0 up in the series, still haven’t lost a playoff game in 2016, and haven’t lost to the Hawks since the 2014-2015 regular season. It’s not just a matchup issue that got worse with DeMarre Carroll leaving for the Toronto Raptors, but obviously a mental issue that makes the Hawks look like they just want these games to be over with.
James led the Cavaliers with 27 points, 5 assists and 3 steals, J.R. Smith followed with 23 points and Kyrie Irving scored 19, taking only nine shots. No one played more than 28 minutes for Cleveland, taking only 10 shots during the entire game that weren’t from inside the paint or three-point field goals. Daryl Morey would be proud, but the Rockets have started their offseason a long time ago. The ball movement by Cleveland was probably the best we’ve seen from them, and maybe anyone, all season long.
Kevin Love injured his shoulder in game 1, finishing with 11 points and 13 rebounds this time. He shot just 3-for-12 from the field, all of his makes from beyond the arc. Love wasn’t the only player misfiring for Cleveland, as were Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, but when so many things are going well for them, those misses really didn’t matter. The Hawks thought the first game had some rare shooting from the Cavaliers; game 2 was like a punch to the face, and maybe their hopes of turning this series around.
It’s not over till it’s over, and switching cities can really turn a playoff series around. However, the Hawks look incapable of making that momentum change. Their bench gives them nothing in terms of changing things when they’re in trouble, and the lineup always seems overmatched on both ends, and especially defensively. Paul Millsap tries helping out, but he can’t cover up for everyone. He finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
This is one of those games hinting that despite everything we’ve heard this season, the Cavaliers are going to have a say in the identity of the next NBA champion. Suddenly, everyone remembers that they took the Warriors to six games without two of their starters even playing. Don’t get me wrong: Their three-point barrage in game 2 wasn’t something we’ll see every time, but they’re capable of this making this kind of basketball more than just a one-night thing, and when it goes this well, they can beat anyone in this league.