Archives For LeBron James

The Cleveland Cavaliers completed their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks as they took Game 4 in Atlanta with a 100-99 victory in Atlanta. The loss marks the end of a fun season in Atlanta, but the crushing exit at the hands of the Cavaliers — in a second successive sweep — has many Hawks fans torn on where the franchise needs to go next. And we’ll get there in good time, here at HawksHoop but, before all of that, let’s just finish the postmortem of this Game 4 loss.

Block or goal tend?

With 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Hawks led 97-96, with the Cavaliers inbounding the ball underneath Atlanta’s basket. Some nice man movement from the Cavs out of the timeout allows LeBron — who frees himself of Paul Millsap — to receive the ball and put it up on the glass for a layup. However, James finds his effort swatted from behind by Millsap, who thinks he has the clean block and rebound, but the whistle sounds and the call is goal tending and the basket counts. As the play is reviewable — as there are less than two minutes remaining in the game — the officials take a look it.

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The Atlanta Hawks’ season now hangs by a very fine thread, as the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied in the fourth quarter to take Game 3 (121-108) and, with it, take the commanding 3-0 series lead.

After the Hawks lost Game 2, I shared the stat that LeBron has never — in 16 playoff series — lost a playoff series after going up 2-0. History wasn’t kind to the Hawks then, and it’s not looking good for them now. No team in NBA history has ever recovered from a 3-0 hole and comeback to win the series 4-3. The Cavs will have the opportunity to complete their second consecutive sweep over the Hawks on Sunday afternoon. For the Hawks, Game 4 is do-or-die, even though the ultimately fatal blow was dealt last night.

Fourth quarter of doom

The Hawks entered the fourth quarter with a five point lead and a Kyle Korver three-pointer put the Hawks up 94-85 with 11:14 left. After the two teams traded punches for a couple minutes, the Hawks still led 101-93 with 9:14 remaining. Obviously, this was plenty enough time for the Cavs to mount a run, and mount a run they did. From that point, the Cavs finished the game on a 28-7 run, shot 56% from the field (9-of-16), shot 55.6% (5-of-9) from behind the arc, and made 5-of-6 from the free throw line. The Hawks, meanwhile, shot 21.4% (3-of-14) from the field, missed all four of their three-point attempts, and only shot two free throws making one (again, from the 9:14 mark).

Huge fourth quarter efforts from LeBron James (10 points, three assists), Kyrie Irving (12 points, two three-pointers), and Channing Frye (11 points, three three-pointers) led the Cavs to a 36 point fourth quarter, outscoring the Hawks by 19 points in the final period. Frye’s 11 point fourth quarter points were part of a 27 point display, while shooting 7-of-9 from behind the arc.

It was such a disappointing result for the Hawks, not only because the loss means that the Hawks are now 0-3 down, but because Hawks played a good playoff game. Think about how mad this is:

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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. Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks face an uphill battle in their second round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the Cavs blew out the Hawks 123-98 in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead. That scoreline is kind to the Hawks, in all honesty. They were blown apart by the Cavs and their outside shooting, and deserved to lose by at least 30.

Before we get to that, we should recognise the situation the Hawks are now in: they’re in trouble, and history does not favor their side…

I can’t find the stat that I saw on Twitter last night, but it was something like “the Hawks have never recovered from a 0-2 series hole in franchise”, but I may be mistaken… Either way, things could be a lot better.

Anyways, let’s get to Game 2. Funnily enough, there’s not much to really discuss but what there is to discuss, we’ll be spending a while on…

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals (93-104) on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as LeBron James led the way (as he so often does) with 25 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists. Kyrie Irving added another 21 points to Cleveland’s cause. The Hawks still have an opportunity to capture home court advantage when the two teams go at it again on Wednesday for Game 2.

There’s lots to get to today because, as always, the Hawks know how to make things interesting for Hawks bloggers/writers etc.

A very winnable game escapes Atlanta’s grasp

The Hawks had, somehow, managed to keep themselves within arms length of the Cavaliers (10-ish points) when they ought to have been down by at least 20. However, as much as the Hawks were one run away from making this a game, the Cavaliers were always one run away from blowing this game wide open.

And that’s exactly what happened in the third quarter, as a 12-4 Cavs run meant that the Hawks were suddenly trailing by 18 points, with the crowd fully engaged fresh off of a thunderous LeBron dunk that put the Cavs up 72-54. Now all of a sudden the Hawks have gone from within a run of being in this game, to being in real danger of being blown out in Game 1 — how was their response? Immediate. Mike Scott canned a three-pointer to immediately hush the home crowd, the Hawks got a stop the other way, and then Dennis Schröder drained another three-pointer. In the blink of an eye the deficit was just 12 and the Cavs called for a timeout.

Great initial response from the Hawks not bury their heads after what could’ve been a game breaker for so many teams. A power-dunk from LeBron that put the Cavs up by 18 in the third quarter, with the crowd going nuts. Many teams never recover from that, but I think Mike Scott (being Mike Scott and doing Mike Scott things) shooting and making that three was massive at that time for the Hawks. The crowd is instantly hushed after that shot, and that helps the Hawks in their quest to get another stop. It fuelled the comeback. Never change, Mike Scott…

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Clinching the 3-seed is unquestionably a present goal for the Atlanta Hawks, but performances like tonight against a high caliber opponent like the Boston Celtics is more paramount heading into postseason.

“The most important thing for us is to keep winning and playing well,” said Al Horford. “That’s the most important thing.”

Atlanta’s defense was at the top of Budenholzer’s list for most important adjustment to make at the half. The Hawks’ defensive coverages, mainly its ability to guard the 3-point line, were a tad bit late and against a team that moves the ball as well as Boston, that leads to them shooting 59% from downtown and scoring 71 points in just 24 minutes.

“We were just making mental mistakes, so many mental mistakes on the defensive end of the floor,” said Kyle Korver. “Against a good team, you cant make those mistakes. You cant just try and run the coverage, you have to be great.”

In the second half, they looked great, lead by Paul Millsap’s energy — 17 of his 31 points came in the 2nd half — and a collective defensive conscious to make life just a little harder on Boston. One thing about these Hawks is that they always seem to find a way to make adjustments without sacrificing their identity in the process. They came out with mindset to force more ball pressure on pick and rolls at the top, but to never over-extend too much, leading to mismatch after mismatch. This is what repeatedly occurred in the first half.

That began with the head of the snake, All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who shot just 2-for-12 from the field in the second half along with three turnovers. They then made a valiant effort on reacting much sooner within their coverages on the 3-point line in order to limit or contest the Celtics attempts from the three point line. (just 1-for-11 in the second half)

Coach Budenholzer later spoke about the success of these adjustments.

“Sometimes there are subtle changes, every teams does different things -o pick and rolls — you try to have a few things that you can use. To be honest with you, we looked at some clips at halftime. There was basic breakdowns, and there was some shot-making. I think we thought we could reduce our mistakes and not give some open looks and opportunities.” Continue Reading…

The Atlanta Hawks lost a heartbreaker last night at Philips Arena, as they were defeated 110-108 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime. LeBron James led the Cavaliers with a LeBron-like/playoff-like stat line of 29 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, three steals, and one block. Kyrie Irving also added 20 points the Cavs’ cause.

The Hawks were led by Paul Millsap’s double-double — 29 points, 12 rebounds — and Jeff Teague’s 28 points and nine assists.

A valiant effort

A valiant, heartbreaking, terrible, then amazing, spirited, sometimes passionless, sometimes passionate game. So many contrasting emotions.

The Hawks were looking good with a lead of 19-14 in the first quarter until the Cavaliers ripped off a 13-0 run near the end of the first quarter to give themselves a nine point lead heading into the second quarter. OK, a nine point deficit — not too bad. It’s not ideal but it’s fine.

What wasn’t fine was the Hawks’ effort in the second quarter. They looked as though they were afraid to drive toward the rim and, as such, settled for a lot of jump shots. Here is the Hawks’ second quarter shot chart. Warning, there’s a lot of red.

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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.” Continue Reading…

Kyrie Irving was ruled out just before the start of Game 2 due to knee tendonitis. Not long afterwards, DeMarre Carroll was ruled a go to start Game 2 against the Cavs.

It didn’t matter.

Without Irving, LeBron James steamrolled through the Hawks’ defense, making the Hawks look helpless as the four-time MVP carved through Atlanta with his passing and scoring to lead Cleveland to a 94-82 victory. Without Irving and Kevin Love — who is absent from the series with a shoulder injury — James put the team on his healthy shoulders and delivered with 30 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists.

“I’ve got a good vocabulary, but I’m sort of running out of superlatives for that guy,” said Coach David Blatt on LeBron. “He’s just a great basketball player.”

James was particularly masterful at adjusting throughout the game, as his scoring early was soon replaced with precision passing as the Hawks’ defense collapsed around him. Eight of James’ first nine assists were on 3-pointers, as James expertly delivered the ball to the likes of Iman Shumpert, James Jones, and Matthew Dellavedova around the perimeter.

“I’m able to make adjustments through the game, just knowing how the defense read and react,” said James on the fluctuations in the way he attacked throughout the game. “Obviously, when you’ve got guys like [Shumpert], who shot the ball extremely well tonight, the defense start to go further and further way from the paint and I’m about to see creases. When they react to me, I’m going to find my guys.”

For the Hawks, the offense became an atrocity in the second half. Jeff Teague led the Hawks in Game 1 with 27 points, but he laid an egg in Game 2 when matched up against Dellavedova. Coach Blatt and the Cavs schemed well, as they went under screens to force the Atlanta guards into shooting jump shots that they are not comfortable with. Teague was 1-for-7 from the field in the second half and did not show the same effort in trying to get to the rim that he did in the first half of the game, nor in Game 1.

“At the end of the day, we went out there, and we didn’t have a lot of energy,” said Carroll. “I think that was the biggest thing.”

Despite his injury, Carroll led the team in minutes in Friday night with 34. Carroll was clearly hampered, however, as he had little to no lift when he attempted to jump. The most athleticism Carroll showed all night was on a run out in transition, where Teague was pushing the ball and Carroll was sprinting at his side, waiting for the drop off pass for an easy bucket. Continue Reading…