There are several numbers we can use to describe tonight's 97-82 win over Atlanta. I used one in the title -- 47-12-8. That's what LeBron threw on Atlanta tonight. The Final Score, of course, is another, and the most important. The Cavaliers are now 7-0 in the Playoffs, every win by double digits.
The fact that the Cavs now lead the series 3-0 is obviously the most important number, with the Cavs looking for the sweep when the series returns on Monday. What will be the story of this night, however, will be the fact that the Cavs took a punch for the first time this postseason and punched back, not once but twice, and once again proved to be the best team in the NBA.
First, we'll talk about LeBron. It seemed he made the decision early on that he would have to be a dominant scorer. Perhaps he saw something on the flight down, or during the pre-game warmups. Whatever it was, it was the right call. Cavaliers not named LeBron James struggled for large parts tonight, and for large parts LeBron carried the weight. It was a consistent attack, as told by LeBron's quarter scoring -- 11,11,12,13.
For the first time in the series, Zydrunas Ilgauskas seemed to have his shot, scoring 14 points on 6-9 shooting. It was a key early, then again late.
The Hawks, for their part, beaten and battered, showed alot of heart, alot of guts. They were down 9 quickly in the first, only to come back and take a 6 point lead. The Cavs regained the lead by halftime, and started the 3rd quarter on a 10-2 run. Once again, the Hawks made a run, going from 12 down to 1 up, 65-64, with 3 minutes to go in the 3rd. That's when the wheels fell off for the Hawks.
Joe Smith, off a pass from Delonte West, drove to the basket and was fouled by ZaZa Pechulia. ZaZa was a foot inside the restricted area, but the frustration of the entire series finally took its toll and ZaZa was assessed a double-tech resulting in an ejection. The Hawks completely fell apart after that.
Something else happened, something that usually spells the death of the opposition. LeBron started jawing with a fan. For the final 14 minutes of the game or so LeBron had something to say after every basket, and there were many. Inside, outside, it didn't matter. LeBron James was in a zone and it didn't matter.
This was the first time, for me at least, that my blood got pumping a bit during a game. Not that there was any kind of worry, just a thrilling game that tested the mettle of the Cavaliers. They answered the call, responded when the Hawks took their best shot. That is what championship basketball is all about. The Cavaliers are playing championship basketball and will look to close the Hawks out, and get the rest that comes with it, Monday Night.