Horford Ejected in Hawks’ Heartbreaking Loss in Game 3

Bo Churney —  May 25, 2015

The Hawks’ season likely came to an end with about a minute remaining in the second quarter.

Yes, the game remained close throughout and even needed overtime to be decided. Yes, there is still at least one more game that needs to be played in this series. And yes, these Hawks have shown that — more often than not — they will fight when presented with adversity.

But when Al Horford was ejected for what the officials deemed as an elbow to the head of Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova, Game 3 was essentially over for Atlanta. The Hawks had their chances late, but nearly every mistake that the Hawks made can be linked to the absence of Horford. Jeff Teague was the only Hawk willing to shoot, Mike Scott was on the floor too much, and the Hawks being short the best body they had to box out Tristan Thompson all led to their 114-111 downfall against the Cavaliers.

“I did think he went at me but I should have handled it better,” Horford said on the season-changing play. “Shouldn’t have gotten caught up in that and it’s something I’ll definitely learn from.”

Regardless of the opinions of whether or not Horford should have been assessed a flagrant-2 foul and ejected, it happened, and the Hawks continued to push forward without Horford, Kyle Korver, and Thabo Sefolosha. Teague was forced to take over the offense and he did so to rather impressive results of 30 points, six rebounds, and seven assists.

“I thought Jeff was great,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “His aggressiveness, his ability to get in the paint, make plays in the paint, make a few 3s. He was very good tonight. A lot of good plays by Jeff.”

For as good as Teague was down the stretch for the Hawks, he was simply outplayed by LeBron James. James started the game shooting 0-for-10, but without Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving, James was forced to continue captaining his offense until the end. James accounted for 27 points on 11-for-21 shooting, 10 rebounds, and eight assists after halftime, resulting in a history 37-point, 18-board, and 13-assist statline for the four-time league MVP.

“I was struggling earlier,” said James. “I missed a lot of shots that I know I’m capable of making, obviously. Missed a lot of layups. Missed a couple 3s, and my teammates kept me afloat.”

Paul Millsap, who has struggled at some points during the playoffs, was the best complement to Teague on offense for Atlanta. Millsap scored 22 points, including an 11-for-11 performance from the free throw line. Millsap played a team-high 46 minutes.

In the absence of Kyle Korver, who is out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, Kent Bazemore played 43 minutes. Bazemore proved to be an effective substitute with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Dennis Schröder only played 3 minutes, with Coach Budenholzer instead opting to play Shelvin Mack. Mack scored 13 points in 28 minutes.

Game 4 — and potentially the last game of Atlanta’s franchise-best 60-win season — will be on Tuesday.

Bo Churney

Posts Twitter

2 responses to Horford Ejected in Hawks’ Heartbreaking Loss in Game 3

  1. Nice work on this write up. I commented yesterday, but I thought Dellavadova went after Korver’s knee in Game 2. I guess this one on Horford was more ambiguous, but still, he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. But come on Horford, you’re the best player on the team, you can’t drop an elbow there. Make a statement in another way, don’t even put that in the refs hands.

    Great season, regardless of what happens on Tuesday. No shame in losing to LeBron, even if Love and Irving are out.

  2. Wife of a Hawks Fan May 26, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    My husband loves basketball. He’s been playing with the same group of guys in a suburb of Atlanta twice a week (sometimes more) for 16+ years. He’s been a Hawks fan for probably half of that time. The last two NBA seasons have been very exciting for him as he’s watched them really take shape. He knew for awhile Atlanta had a lot of strong players, but I guess it took the right coach to make them into a good team. So needless to say, the fact that the Hawks made it to the playoffs, and survived the first two rounds, has made him a very happy man. I’ve been along for the ride as well over the years. And what has struck me is that not only is this team made up of good players, but they also seem to be good people. Men that I’m OK with my son looking up to.

    The Hawks have not played well in the post season. I think that’s a pretty fair statement to make. They have struggled, and sometimes it’s even been too painful to watch. For whatever reason, they lost their 60-win season groove but fought a good, clean fight to make it to the Eastern Conference finals against the Cavaliers. The first loss to Cleveland was tough. There were some bad calls, but the Cavaliers deserved to win the game because they played better basketball. I saw the tone change though in game 2. Instead of playing just better basketball, Cleveland seemed to ratchet up the trash talking and physicality as well. I’m not sure why. They had one game up on the Hawks and appeared to be winning game 2. Then came the Kyle Korver incident. It was a crushing blow to Atlanta. Good player, good man – out for the rest of the playoffs, with several months of recovery ahead of him. Maybe that’s why we saw glimpses of the Eastern Conference #1 seed come out and play in Game 3. Until of course, the Al Horford debacle and the worst call yet of the playoffs. I mean really – ejection? It almost made me start believing all of the conspiracy theories. I so wished the Hawks could have won that game. But for whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be.

    My hopes for tonight are around a game 4 where good, clean basketball is played. No injuries, no ridiculous calls. Just a fair fight. No matter what happens though, we will remain proud Atlanta Hawks fans.