Fourth quarter letdown pushes Hawks to the brink of elimination

Eric Yeboah —  May 7, 2016

Home is a place of refuge, a place to reset, regroup and re-energize; but for the Hawks, all they received was a 121-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In the first two and a half quarters, they returned back to the style of basketball that brings the most success to them as they forced turnovers, played physical and mailed in good looks from 3-point land. This game, Coach Budenholzer decided to shake things up a bit by adding more defense and hustle to the lineup, replacing Kyle Korver with Thabo Sefolosha and giving Kris Humphries more meaningful minutes.

“You have to change. We’re in the playoffs,” said Al Horford, who scored 24 points. “We’re fighting for our playoff lives right now. At this point, we have to do some changes because what we’ve done hasn’t worked. We felt good about tonight, but we had some mistakes that cost us.”

Those mistakes Horford referred to came mostly in the the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, as Cleveland made adjustments that then forced the Hawks into questionable shot selections, wasteful possessions and worst of them all, turnovers. The fourth quarter defense looked much like every quarter in Game 2, as Cleveland’s ball movement found the right shooter at the right time.

Atlanta plays best when their defense initiates their offense, but that was no more, and they were forced into a shootout they had no bullets for.

The energy and focus that they began the game with vanished. The 35-point second quarter seemed like it happened weeks ago. Channing Frye still wasn’t letting up, finishing with 27 points, shooting 7-for-9 from downtown.

Kyrie Irving found his rhythm starting midway through the third quarter and never looked back as he was able to get his defender on an island, where most defenders in the league don’t stand a chance, showing off his sweet handle and pull up jumper. Irving scored eight of his 20 second half points in the third quarter.

“With Kyrie, we have two of the best one on one players in the world,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “To start the fourth quarter, I told Kyrie I want you to be aggressive and look to play fast and early and try to play without the screen.”

Even with somebody as talented as Kyrie, every now and then they need to be reminded of their importance. LeBron James’s words did just that for Irving, spelling doom for Atlanta.

“I just try to stay on Kyrie throughout the whole game,” said James. “Middle of the third I told him to I don’t care what happened just hit the reset button. Because at the end of the day we need everything from you. We need you to lead us and from that point from the 4 minute mark in the third quarter until the fourth quarter he just did what Kyrie does.”

Now for Atlanta, it’s about living to fight another day. Despite Teague’s “not this year” remark in Game 1, Atlanta is in the exact same predicament as last year, down 3-0 to LeBron and company. They made adjustments, making them much more competitive than the previous game , but only to end with the same result.

Yeah, a tough one,” said a disgrunted Kyle Korver, who scored 18 points off of the bench. “For sure, feel like we had our chances in Game 1 and feel like we had our chances here tonight. But we didn’t get them. We got a day and a half to get our heads right for the next one.”

Eric Yeboah

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