It would be hard for too many of us to say that we thought the Cleveland Cavaliers would return to Quicken Loans Arena with a 2-0 lead given the injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. It would be hard for many of us to say we expected Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson to have played this well. It would be hard for some of us to say we expected Timofey Mozgov to be holding his own against smaller, quicker bigs that Atlanta has thrown his way.
The question then is, is it sustainable? While the Atlanta Hawks are truly being stymied by a stout Cavs defense, the 1st seed 60 win team are also missing shots they'd normally make.
Trying it again, hopefully this makes it clear that the "leaving the right guys open" theory is sort of bunk: pic.twitter.com/k2GSYsNY89— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) May 23, 2015
"Held" https://t.co/3cGwfhRuW6— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) May 23, 2015
What chart shows is basically a (slightly below) average collection of shooters hitting 29% of shots NBA hit at 39% https://t.co/wY66dNVmn3— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) May 23, 2015
Now, none of this is to say that the Cavs are in trouble or anything like that. The Cavs are defending very well. On one play DeMarre Carroll got penetration but Tristan Thompson rotated over, kicked it out to the perimeter, and the Hawks got two separate ball swings that resulted in three things:
a) Kyle Korver got what would be, for him, a pretty decent look from three point range.
b) the Cavs closed out pretty well on Korver, to the point that he passed up the look and tried to create his own offense.
c) didn't end up scoring a point on the possession.
But the Hawks can and probably should play better. Let's look at another trend from last night.
yikes. pic.twitter.com/J5kvJPc17j— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) May 23, 2015
Wow! Shumpert, Thompson and James were fire playing together. It's just one game, yes, but you only need to win four of these things to win the series. Can the Cavs count on that again? No, but yes.
In the regular season, per nba.com/stats, lineups with all three of Thompson, Shumpert and James outscored opponents by 21.3 pts/100 possessions over 340 minutes. That's insanely good! They scored at what would be a historic rate, and they gave up just 97.5 pts/100 possessions. It's still a small sample size, but the simple fact of the matter is that these versatile players have been very good together this year. David Blatt will have to ride them hard moving forward.
I sort of foresaw this, or at least the success they might have:
Lineups with Shump, LeBron and Tristan are outscoring opponents by 20.7 pts/100 possessions. I'd like to see those three anchor bench units— David Zavac (@DavidZavac) March 29, 2015
But most of those minutes came against bench units. These guys are now doing it against the Hawks, who had one of the best starting lineups in the league.
The other thing we'll be looking at tomorrow night is the health of the Hawks. DeMarre Carroll is banged up, and Kyle Korver might not play after Matthew Delladova rolled over on his ankle. Al Horford was ineffective and hurt and Paul Millsap has been slowed down by Tristan Thompson.
Whither Jeff Teague? I'll be covering the game for Fear the Sword. A win here all but assures the Cavs their second trip to the NBA Finals as a franchise. I don't see the Hawks rolling over, but they might have a ton left in the tank. We will see.