First and foremost, we must not discredit the Hawks because of the Cavaliers’ dominant shooting. Sure, they lost 123-98 and Cleveland set a record with 25 made threes, but Atlanta played fantastic defense on a lot of their possessions. The Cavs were just absolutely stroking it from downtown; on two-point shots, the Hawks limited their opposition to just 38%.
With the way the first quarter went, it was a huge premonition for how the rest of the game would go. J.R. Smith, who’s having a stratospheric performance from behind the line, got started early and drained four quick threes, and finished with 14 of the Cavs’ 35 points. Kyrie Irving had a three, Kevin Love had two, and LeBron James even had one as Cleveland shot over 66% from behind the line. Atlanta had issues with their offense and was held to just 20 points on 40% shooting by Cleveland’s defense. Paul Millsap was the most productive Hawk and had nine on 3/6 shooting to help keep them afloat.
By no means did the Cavaliers let up in the second quarter. In fact, they were more efficient following their opening barrage. Smith, shockingly, hit two more threes, but perhaps the most unusual part was James’ confidence and efficiency from deep. James is ludicrously bad from deep and finished at about 31% for the regular season; on twos this year, LeBron shot 57%. Paradoxically, James was 2/3 from downtown and 1/2 from inside the line for a total of nine points. The Hawks still couldn’t keep up and were outscored 39-18 and entered halftime trailing 74-38.
I’m not sure what happened, but it looked like the Cavaliers got tired of bombing away in the third quarter. After launching 12 threes in the first quarter and 15 in the second, Cleveland only attempted seven shots from behind the arc — although they hit four. Their offense stumbled a bit, and they escaped the third quarter with 32 points, tying the Hawks. James and Irving had 11 each on 6/9 shooting, and Al Horford and Thabo Sefolosha led Atlanta with eight and seven points, respectively. Both teams pulled their starters for the entire fourth, and the Hawks’ bench outscored Cleveland’s 28-17.
James was the game’s leading scorer with 27 on 9/15 shooting; Kyrie had 19 points, and six assists and J.R Smith had 23 on 7/13 from downtown. Smith has 28 threes made through the first six playoff games, and if he continues at this pace, he’ll become the 20th player to finish a postseason with 20+ threes made with a three-point percentage above 50%. Kevin Love marvelous on the boards and pulled down 13 to make up for his off shooting night.
Game 3 is set for Friday, May 6, at 7:00 PM EST in Atlanta.