It’s the Eastern Conference Final that most Hawks fans anticipated; the Atlanta Hawks against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a big victory for the Cavs over the Bulls and a dramatic finish to the Hawks/Wizards series, everyone was anticipating a hard-fought matchup between these 2 teams. The game did not disappoint…
The Hawks were off to a great start in the 1st Quarter but just couldn’t pull away like they needed. Jeff Teague was on fire with 9 points, an assist, and a steal while 3 other Hawks players (Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Dennis Schröder) tallied 4 points.
LeBron James and J.R. Smith began to turn up the pressure and found a rhythm in the 2nd Quarter. James had 16 points and 4 assists while J.R. Smith had 11 points.
Horford had 10 points before the Half was over and Teague had a team high 17 points. But as time passed the Hawks started to lose their 1st Half momentum. The outside shot did not play in favor of the Hawks and J.R. Smith had a step-back jumper that was proving troublesome for the home side.
The Hawks’ lead dwindled to 2, then they were tied, then the Cavs took the lead and never looked back. The worst came with 5 minutes left in the game when DeMarre Carroll collapsed during a drive and came up holding his knee.
With ATL’s ‘junkyard dog’ out the game, the Hawks went for speed with Korver, Bazemore, and Teague, while keeping Horford and Millsap in the game. It’s times like now that the Hawks could use Thabo Sefolosha. Silly fouls kept the Cavs ahead in the points column with a little help from the referees. Light fouls and technicals kept plaguing the home squad (they were bad calls by the way).
Late in the 4th the Hawks mounted a run to cut into the Cavaliers 15 point lead. With the lead down to 8, the Cavs suddenly couldn’t buy a bucket. 4 straight misses turned into Hawks opportunities. A goaltending call made things worse for the Cavs as their 15 point lead officially slipped to 6, making the game 85-91 in favor of Cleveland.
The game was pretty much sealed when LeBron held the ball and then drove through the lane for an uncontested slam dunk. With the lead at 93-87 with 20.1 seconds left, all the Cavs had to do was hold the ball and foul.
Without any last second heroics, the Hawks not only lost the game 97-89, they lost a big playmaker in DeMarre Carroll who left the game with a knee injury.
The Hawks will try to make things right come Friday for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final.