The formula against the Atlanta Hawks hasn’t changed for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without the personnel to slow down LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are able to penetrate the paint at will and generate quality three point looks. This was once again the case as the Cavs defeated the Hawks 135-130.
It was a spirited effort from the Cavs tonight. Hot shooting early on energized the team and they kept their foot on the gas for the majority of the night. The success from the perimeter also seemed to encourage the team to look for the extra pass throughout the night, resulting in one of their better passing displays of the season.
The Hawks managed to cut the lead down to eight with just over four minutes to play. While the Cavs offense was rolling, they willingly engaged the Hawks in a shootout and offered up little resistance on the defensive end of the floor. That lack of defense kept the door open for Atlanta to slowly claw away at the lead, and eventually get within striking distance down the stretch.
The Hawks got within one point of the Cavs with just under a minute and a half to go, before Kyle Korver got his revenge with a three pointer off of a screen. The three-pointer set an NBA record for made threes in a game with 25. From there Irving gave them some breathing room with a driving finish over Dwight Howard, stretching the lead to six and effectively putting the game out of reach.
While blowing the lead was frustrating, it did make for an exciting game. The Cavs could have used rest in the fourth quarter with a match-up in Miami tomorrow. However playing only on one end of the floor all night may prove to be all the rest required.
Notes from the game:
- While he hasn’t had a big game on the box score, Deron Williams has done a quality job of running the team when James and Irving are off the floor. He is a confident ball handler that gets the team into their sets and generates looks for others.
- The time that Williams, Irving, and James shared on the court was also tremendously entertaining. Having three quality play-makers surrounded by three point threats is a potent look that few teams are prepared to defend. It’ll be interesting to see how frequently Lue goes to that for the remainder of the season.
- It’s nights like tonight that serve as a reminder to really enjoy the regular season. LeBron James was absolutely phenomenal and put on a show. While the team will ultimately be judged on what they do in June, it doesn’t make nights like tonight any less special. Recording 38 points, 8 assists and 13 rebounds in spectacular fashion, James served up another reminder of why he’s the best player on earth.
- Speaking of special, Irving was on a whole other level tonight. Scoring 43 points on 14-21 shooting, while adding in 9 assists and 4 steals. While his impact might be doubted by some, he continued his career-best season with another phenomenal performance.
- With the news that J.R. Smith will join the team in the next 10-14 days, Iman Shumpert might be feeling some pressure. Shumpert has been inconsistent defensively and poor offensively for some time now. With Korver’s play, Smith’s pending return and the effectiveness of Irving-Williams lineups... Shumpert looks like he could be the odd man out.
- Paul Millsap overcame his Tristan Thompson problems for one night, scoring 27 points on 9-16 shooting. Millsap is one of the best power forwards in the game, so it’s probably more surprising that he hasn’t gone off against the Cavs before than the fact he went off tonight.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. went off for a career-high 36 points, proving that all some players need is the opportunity to get out of New York.
- The upgrade from Mike Dunleavy Jr. to Kyle Korver still feels incredible. Korver has been a fantastic fit with the Cavs and really feels like an unfair weapon at times.