The Atlanta Hawks are a different team at home. Hard to imagine any possible way they couldn't be better than the team we have seen during the first two games of this series. Behind a balanced attack, suffocating defense, and an unstoppable force, the Cleveland Cavaliers are half-way to the Eastern Conference Finals after beating up on the Atlanta Hawks.
The game wasn't nearly as close as the score would indicate, Atlanta scored a ton of points during garbage time, and the body language of the visitors was that of a team resigned to its fate. That Phillips Arena crowd will do it's best to help the home team, but after back-to-back embarrassing losses, one has to wonder just how much the Hawks can muster.
LeBron James scored 27 points in 31 minutes, taking an all too familiar seat on the bench for the 4th quarter as the Cavaliers led by 30 after 3. Perhaps the biggest story of the first half, after LeBron of course, his dunk to end the First, his 40-footer to end the half, was Wally Szczerbiak. Wally World was back in effect with 17 points, including a dunk off a breakaway pass from LeBron. The Cavaliers depth gets more and more impressive.
On the negative side, injuries for both teams have to be a concern.
First, for the Cavs, Delonte West left the game in the 3rd quarter after getting poked in the eye. As I write this, the report on West hasn't changed, though doctors are keeping close watch on West since he took a shot to the head. Terrance Kinsey also injured an ankle during garbage time and didn't return.
The news is much worse for the Hawks. Already without Al Horford and Marvin Williams, Atlanta is now facing the prospects of playing Game 3 without their All Star Joe Johnson. Johnson left the game in the 3rd quarter with what was called a severely sprained right ankle. His status for Game 3 is already called extrememly doubtful.
No Joe Johnson means this series is likely to get unfair in a hurry. Even with a huge home court advantage that the Hawks like to claim they have, their chances cannot be considered that good without Johnson, the one player that can go off and create his own shot.
Also a negative for the Cavaliers has to be the way the game ended. That is two series' in a row, both Game 2's, that the Cavaliers had a huge lead only to watch the 2nd unit give it away. Against Detroit, the Cavaliers were forced to bring LeBron and Co. back into the game to put it away. That wasn't needed tonight, but the fact the Cavs allowed the Hawks to cut over 20 points off the lead, to get outscored by 10 points in the 4th and to get outplayed by a bunch of no-names.
If nothing else, it provides Mike Brown something to yell about on the flight to Atlanta. There isn't much else the Cavs can really be upset about, with 6 straigh wins in the playoffs so far, all by double-digits.