The matchup between the two hottest teams in the East did not get off to a great start for fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Atlanta Hawks were getting to the rim at will and that was opening up opportunities from midrange and from beyond the arc.
Al Horford showed that he is still one of the most talented big men in the game and the dynamic duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder punished the Cavs with their quickness. On the other end of the court, the ball movement that typified the Cavs play throughout their hot streak was not present at all. LeBron James looked to be in "chill mode" and threw careless passes/was not secure with his dribble. The three-point shooting was the only thing that kept the Cavs in the game with Kevin Love and James Jones both connecting on multiple threes in the first half.
While the Cavs play was uninspiring, they were only down by ten points at the break, which seemed like a miracle given how poorly they played and just how well the Hawks were shooting.
The Cavs actually managed to take the lead briefly in the third quarter. However, in the crucial opening minutes of the fourth quarter, David Blatt elected to go with Kyrie and bench scrubs. That decision resulted in the return of a ten-point deficit that the Cavs were never able to overcome.
Thoughts from the game:
- This was one of the most poorly officiated games I've watched this season. It was uneven on both ends of the court and it interrupted the flow of the game. Tony Brothers gon' Tony Brothers, I guess.
- LeBron James was absolutely horrible tonight by his standards. He was disengaged from the start, careless with the ball and seemed to hijack the offense with very little success. LeBron being terrible isn't a common occurance, but unfortunately tonight was one of those nights.
- The Cavs also received an uneven game from Irving. Like LeBron, he forced the issue too many times. But he was absolutely on fire throughout the middle of the game and helped the Cavs get back into striking range. Overall, he could have been better.
- One player who couldn't have been much better was Iman Shumpert. While he didn't set the world on fire, he battled consistently throughout the night and was one of the few players who looked like they wanted the win for the entire night.
- The game also featured a scary moment when Kevin Love rolled his ankle in the first quarter. He was off to a hot start, but was forced to go to the locker room. After he returned, it appeared as though his mobility was limited and he didn't move around with a purpose on offense. He did continue to compete on the boards and defense, but I'd assume he's going to be pretty sore for tomorrow's game against the Phoenix Suns.
- Matthew Dellavedova is an issue. It's been brought up ad nauseam, but he did not provide anything positive all night and was absolutely embarrassed by Dennis Schroeder. He can bother players with his energy, but any NBA player with composure can expose the fact that he is not a very good defender.
- Even though the Cavs played poorly, it shouldn't take anything away from what the Hawks were able to achieve tonight. They forced the Cavs into a lot of their struggles by taking away the pick and roll that has been the bread and butter of the wine and gold. They also tried to apply pressure to LeBron and force someone else to beat them, but that fact wasn't recognized and the Cavs were burned by their inability to adjust.
The Cavs have a chance to redeem themselves at home tomorrow night as they take on the Phoenix Suns. We'll have everything you need to get ready for that game in our preview as well as the recap of the game. Luckily the team won't have an overnight in Atlanta before the game.