Cleveland Cavaliers 135
Atlanta Hawks 130
As it would turn out, the Atlanta Hawks still cannot defend the three-point line. Many folks will recall the absolute barrage Ty Lue and the Cavaliers unfurled on the Hawks during Game 2 in the second round of the playoffs last season, players like J.R. Smith and Channing Frye dousing their shooting hands in gasoline before dropping fireballs through the net. They ended up knocking in 25 threes in the game, setting the record for threes made in any NBA game, regular season or playoffs. On Friday night, the sharp-shooting Cavs made sure to notch the regular season one as well, dropping 25 more against Atlanta in Phillips Arena.
LeBron James hit six. Kyrie Irving hit five. Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye each at three. The team that broke the record initially was fully stocked. This one was without two of their biggest deep threats in Smith and Kevin Love.
“We probably could have had more,” said Lue following the game. “We got too comfortable and started messing around. We took some bad shots. Not finishing the game off the right way was disappointing.”
What Lue referenced was a fairly disastrous finish to what should have been an absolute blowout. As the score line above will tell you, this one wasn’t exactly a defensive battle as the Hawks scored 60 in the first half, only to be outdone by 42 points in the fourth quarter. To say things were sloppy is oversimplifying. The passing stopped, and the transition defense was completely invisible. That said, the Cavs’ ability to hit 53 percent of their three-pointers would be enough to compensate for the team losing both the turnover and rebound battles.
If there is any true downside, the lack of full-court effort in the final period forced the Cavs to go with their closing unit deep into the fourth quarter. The Cavs have their second game in the back-to-back slate Saturday night in Miami against the Heat.
25: The Cavs had a 25-point lead in the third quarter of this one, but things got a little lackadaisical late as the Hawks closed within one with 1:32 to go in the fourth quarter. “Once we got up 25, we took the game for granted,” said Lue.
Thankfully for Cleveland, as Sir Foster was banging on the organ and Hawks fans were screaming “DE-FENSE” at the top of their lungs, it was Kyle Korver who ran off a Tristan Thompson screen and buried a clutch three-pointer from the wing to put the Cavs up four. Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore missed a lay-up and the Cavs came back for a quick two from Kyrie Irving, taking advantage of a perplexed defense that would effectively seal the deal.
4: Speaking of Irving, as we were remiss to mention his wizardry in the recent loss to Boston, the Cavs All-Star point guard dropped 43 and 9 against the Hawks, registering double-digits in each of the four quarters. Behold: The Ankletaker
59: The combined points, rebounds, and assists for LeBron James, whose 38, 13, and 8 night saw The King finish just two assists shy of another triple-double. James shooting 10 threes in a game isn’t exactly ideal, but he’s playing phenomenal basketball at this stage, and when he’s hitting 60 percent from deep, it’s tough to beat this Cavaliers team.
81: If your math is on par, you’ll combine two of the notes above to see that James and Irving combined for 81 points which is insane.
31: Much will be made of the Cavs’ 25 three-pointers, but many of them would not have happened if not for the team’s assist total which finished north of 30. Irving had nine, and LeBron James added eight, but newly acquired point guard Deron Williams dished out seven of his own off the bench.
10: The number of passes in one, solitary possession in the second quarter that ended in an assisted three. Nearly all five members of the Hawks looked as if they were put in a drier. “When everybody’s touching the ball, we’re a tough team to beat,” Irving said following the game.
52: Kyle Korver’s shooting percentage from February 15 through March 3. The kid, who rightfully deserved the ovation he received from the Atlanta fans midway through Friday night’s game, has been one hell of an addition for a Cavs team that suddenly has an immense amount of depth. He hit the record-breaking three, blocked a Thabo Sefolosha dunk attempt, and added a steal. The total package, this guy.
Not too bad.
See you Saturday in South Beach.