It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was down-right disgusting. As good as the Cleveland Cavaliers have been, they have weaknesses. All teams do. The good ones do a better job of disguising them, the great ones have LeBron James. Tonight, however, the weaknesses of the Cavaliers were all on display at once. It still wasn't enough for the Hawks to win, or get within 10 points of Cleveland.
The 84-74 win was the 8th straight win of this post-season for the Cavs, all eight by double-digits - an NBA Record. LeBron James was himself - 27-8-8 - and Delonte West chipped in with 21 points.
Give the Hawks a bit of credit, they didn't quit. They played hard all night, actually leading by 7 after the first quarter. Their effort, combined with Cleveland's careless handling of the ball, inefficient(at times) offense and absolutely embarrassing display at the free throw line kept the game close all night.
The Cavaliers turned the ball over 15 times, including three straight possessions during the 4th quarter. As much good as Delonte West brings, he can get pretty sloppy with the ball at times and it nearly cost the Cavs. At some point, it might.
The Cavaliers were awful from the free throw line all night, ending at 53%(14-26). This included 3 straight misses at the end of the 1st half that could have given the Cavaliers a 5 point lead. I don't need to say, but I will -- this kind of performance will not get it done from here on out. I know it, you know it, and most importantly, the Cavaliers know it.
Enough about the bad, let's talk about the good, no GREAT. The Cavaliers defense is simply that - great. It is the bread and butter of a team that can run and gun with anyone. When things get sloppy, however, when referees decide they want to turn the pace of a basketball game into a choppy mess, the Cavaliers can rely on their defense.
The Hawks shot just 31% from the field for the game, scoring just 74 points - 4 below the Cavaliers average for the post-season. The Hawks' best weapons - Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson - scored just 21 points on 8-24 shooting.
The Cavaliers also out-rebounded the Hawks 48-33.
Now comes another rest. It could be 6 days, it could be 8. It all depends on what happens with the Celtics and Magic who need to play at least 2 more games to get the right to face the Cavaliers. For now, we celebrate and reflect on what has been a perfect post-season so far. In a race to 16, the Cavaliers are half-way home. The up-hill portion has just begun, however, and the next 8 are surely going to be more difficult than the first.