Is this the end of the Atlanta Hawks in the 2015 NBA playoffs? The Cleveland Cavaliers, hoping for another great but more efficient performance from LeBron James, leading 3-0, are one win away from going to the NBA finals for only the second time in franchise history.
The Hawks came close; very close, in game 3. Jeff Teague missed a 3-pointer to win the game in regulation. Mike Scott missed two 3-pointers at the end of overtime that would have tied it and gave us another five minutes of basketball. LeBron James, cold shooting all game long, scored the final five points for the Cavaliers, taking them back from behind to win once again without Kevin Love (pretty much a given by now) and Kyrie Irving.
And what is Irving’s status? He’s working out, but the Cavaliers know that more rest means a better chance of him at least playing some effective minutes later on in this postseason. If they can get by the Hawks without him, why risk it? David Blatt is saying the expected things (We need Kyrie on the court, and we’re not really thinking about resting him as much as we’re thinking about him being healthy to play basketball whether we’re up 1-0 or 2-1 or 3-0) but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t play again, getting some more time to rest.
The Hawks didn’t shoot all that well again in game 3. Just 40.9% from the field, and a good but not special 36.7% from beyond the arc. They didn’t turn the ball over and enjoyed LeBron James having an awful shooting game (14-of-37 from the field). And yet they still couldn’t pull through. Maybe, considering both Kyle Korver and Thabo Sefolosha are out, the Hawks don’t have what it takes to overcome a very good defensive team that’s able to work around even awful shooting games from its leading player.
One thing the Hawks need to somehow handle is restraining the Cavaliers on the boards. Tristan Thompson is usually the main culprit of the offensive rebounds, but James finished with 8 in the game 3 win. It continues to come down to fundamentals, as Mike Budenholzer keeps saying. Simply doing the simple things like moving the ball and moving yourself, setting screens and getting around them and even boxing out; doing it better leads to a closer game, and maybe even taking the series back to Atlanta.
Al Horford will be playing despite his ejection in game 3. It’ll be interesting to see how Matthew Dellavedova conducts himself after the Korver injury and Horford elbowing him in the head. He’s on the floor to defend and create a mess, which he has been doing very well so far. If he can also keep making the Hawks worry about his antics, he’s done his job better than anyone would believe he can.