Atlanta Hawks 98
Cleveland Cavaliers 123
Cavs lead series, 2-0
Haha. Hahahahaha. Haha.
What can you do after a game like that but laugh? Not at the Atlanta Hawks, who had the poor fortune of showing up on this particular night, but at the brilliance of the Cavs and the sheer disparity on the scoreboard. Seldom does The Diff get a workout like that which it labored through Wednesday night at the Q. The game was tied — Cavs 16, Hawks 16 — midway through the first quarter. That would change in a hurry.
The Cavs finished the first quarter on a 19-4 run, and by halftime they led, 74-38. They made a preposterous 18-of-27 threes in the first half. That was three shy of the playoff record for triples in a full game, set by the Golden State Warriors earlier in these playoffs. The Cavs broke that record through Kyrie Irving with 5:05 to go in the third period. They finished with 25 threes, more than any NBA team has ever made in a game, regular season or playoffs. Dahntay Jones, signed on April 13, broke the record with 2:21 to go in the game. (Mo Williams added a cherry on top shortly thereafter.)
They made open shots and contested shots. They pulled up off the dribble and knocked down catch-and-shoots. They hit from the corner and the wing and the top of the arc. They even made a three off a guy’s head.
Hell, J.R. Smith alone did all of those things, minus the off-the-head job. This was the ideal J.R. game, and he led the shotmaking bonanza early. Much of his charm and value come from the fact that he not only has the gall to take unconscionable shots, but the ability to hit an unreasonable amount of them. He did plenty of both en route to 7-of-13 threes.
Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, who knows a thing or two about the subject, called J.R. one of the most underrated shooters of all time. Korver was proven right the hard way.
It wasn’t just J.R., though. LeBron James, he of the maligned jumper, connected four times from downtown. Kevin Love only went 3-of-12 from the field, but each make came from beyond the arc. Kyrie Irving turned in a super-efficient playoff performance, with his 19 points bolstered by a 4-of-5 effort from deep. The big three together totaled 57 points in just 77 minutes.
It wasn’t just the stars, though. The bench scored 38 points in extended minutes, including 7 threes. Everyone who played scored with the exceptions of Timofey Mozgov and James Jones. Y2K-era University of Arizona stars Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Iman Shumpert threw down a wicked right-hand slam to punctuate the third quarter. The entire fourth quarter was garbage time.
It wasn’t just the shooting, though. Aside from some late lapses when the result was already decided, the Cavs played outstanding defense. They held Atlanta to 38 points in the first half and 42 percent shooting overall. They outrebounded the Hawks, led by Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love, who combined to grab 10 offensive boards. They turned the ball over just 8 times while forcing the visitors into 16.
The shooting statistics will rightly get the headlines — Atlanta had the league’s second-best defense this season, and the best since January 1 — but the Cavs’ performance in other aspects of the game may quietly be just as encouraging.
That includes the passing. The Cavs did some chucking late to get the record, but for much of the game their open shots resulted from sound inside-out ball. It’s legitimately a challenge to play normally when everything is falling. It’s tempting to audible from the gameplan and heave at every opportunity. To their credit, the Cavs fought that urge almost all the way, and it was pretty most of the time.
Boy howdy was it a treat to watch. We’ve covered most of the important numbers already, but here are a few more.
25 — We detailed the 25 threes above. Those who contributed to the record are as follows:
J.R. Smith — 7-of-13 threes
LeBron James — 4-of-6
Kyrie Irving — 4-of-5
Kevin Love — 3-of-4
Richard Jefferson — 2-of-2
Mo Williams — 1-of-4
Channing Frye — 1-of-3
Matthew Dellavedova — 1-of-3
Dahntay Jones — 1-of-2
Iman Shumpert — 1-of-1
Shame on James Jones, who went 0-for-2.
+26 — In this series, the Cavs are now plus-26 against the Hawks in the first quarter. They followed up a plus-11 in the opening period of Game 1 with a plus-15 effort in Game 2. Their shooting Wednesday was otherworldly, but between a regular-season sweep and a 2-0 playoff lead, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that the Cavs may just pose a bad matchup for the Hawks. If they can keep building big leads, they have a shot at getting their main guys some decent rest. (Knock on wood.)
5 — After torching the Cavs with 27 points in Game 1, Dennis Schröder scored a whopping five points in Game 2. The Cavs were content to let the speedy point guard take all the shots he wanted, as they were in the first game of the series, preferring to focus on Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford. This game turned into such a blowout that Schröder couldn’t have done anything about it, but his feeble outing should count as a small feather in Tyronn Lue’s coaching cap.
3-of-7 — Kyle Korver has been the Cavs’ main focal point, and they held him in check again: 7 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Again, this thing was a blowout, so it’s tough to draw too much meaning from it — Korver only played 20 minutes — but it’s encouraging to see the Cavs limiting him so much.
9 — LeBron James’ free throw shooting numbers were something of a talking point entering this game. That topic is unlikely to get much play now. LeBron went to the line nine times, making five. More importantly, at risk of belaboring the point, this thing was a Blow. Out.
-13 — Timofey Mozgov turned in a minus-13 rating in 13 minutes of play. Don’t take this seriously, as none of those minutes were meaningful. I’m just fascinated by Timo’s plight.
0 — Zero losses for the Cavs through their first six playoff games. They remain the only team undefeated in the postseason. This is fun.