One more step towards the sweep as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 114-111 in overtime to take a 3-0 lead in the conference finals, led by LeBron James who started out terribly but finished strong, showing once again he’s the difference between the mundane and the special for his team.
James finished with a triple double, scoring 37 points with 18 rebounds and 13 assists. He did, however, shoot just 14-of-37 from the field (started the game 0-for-10) and turned the ball over six times. He played 47 minutes which isn’t something he likes to do but no there’s no other choice, even if the Cavaliers did lose by three points during his minutes. It’s what he did in the end that made up for it.
James entered overtime with just 12-of-32 from the field. But with his team down by two points and less than a minute to go, he had no problem taking a corner three after a pump fake to shake off Paul Millsap and give his team the lead. On the other end he made Jeff Teague miss a layup (maybe fouled him, too difficult to tell) and then on the other end scored two more points to seal the deal.
The Hawks tried trying the game in the final seconds but didn’t come up with a play. Mike Scott took a bad three that turned into his own offensive rebound. His second shot was a much better look from the corner, but he missed it as well. Jeff Teague missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation with the game tied at 104-104. The Hawks, as it turns out, can’t go into the final seconds of a game without holding the lead.
This was as close as it’s been for the Cavaliers in this series to lose. James couldn’t hit anything in the first quarter (the worst of his career), Kyrie Irving wasn’t playing and James, frustrated with not hitting shots, kept playing selfishly until he had things falling for him and then spread the ball around. In the second half, as the Cavaliers built a small lead they later squandered, they were at their best when James was drawing the defense to him and then sharing the ball, something he should do more of.
Al Horford was ejected just before the halftime whistle. Matthew Dellavedova struck for a second time in this postseason by pestering a big man. He seemed to fall on the leg of Horford as the teams were fighting for a loose ball. Horford tried to make it look like he simply fell on the Australian guard, but the replays clearly showed he dropped on Dellavedova with intent, earning his flagrant 2.
Besides James, the Cavaliers shot very well from the outside (13-of-30) and got 17 points from J.R. Smith off the bench, helped out by nine from James Jones. At this point, Shawn Marion, playing four minutes, is a non-factor for this team. Iman Shumpert scored 17 points as well as the Cavaliers once again destroyed the Hawks on the glass with 19 offensive rebounds, 8 of them by James.
For good and bad, this is the LeBron James show, and always was going to be this way from the moment he signed on. He tries to do too much but without him, considering the injures the Cavaliers have to deal with, they wouldn’t be playing in the conference finals and be one win away from the NBA finals. David Blatt takes care all of the rest and has set himself up for one impressive finish on his rookie season as a head coach. For everything else, there’s James.