Overview: The Hawks, showing renewed vigor at home, kept the game close for three quarters and even led briefly in the second half, but ultimately crumbled under LeBron James’ best statistical playoff game of his career, as King James went off for 47/12/8.
Coming into this game, LeBron was producing at an absolutely stupid level. Better than 30 points a game and elevated rebound and assist totals, despite playing limited minutes. Six straight blowout wins. A 65% TS. The gap between his playoff PER and the #2 players is the size of the gap between #2 and #42 (Billups and Shannon Brown) And yet we hadn’t gotten a true “Witness” game yet. Well, we got one tonight.
Make no mistake; this was a real game. The Hawks, who posted a 31-10 home record on the year came to play, and were doing some really good things. They were stopping penetration, Joe Johnson was getting into the paint and making things happen, Josh Smith was actually hitting a few jumpers, Horford and Williams were back and playing at limited but reasonable effectiveness. They were getting out on the break, getting production from everyone on the floor, and playing with great intensity and feeding off the crowd. These were the Dr. Jekyll Hawks.
On the other end, the Cavs were not rolling on all cylanders. Only one three outside of LeBron. Mo and Delonte were a little tentative, and only combined for 5 assists. Andy wasn’t getting involved offensively. Only 7 points off the bench, with all of them coming from Joe Smith. Way too many turnovers and sloppy transition defense. When LeBron sat for 5 minutes, the Cavs leaked 9 points. Under normal circumstances, the Cavaliers lose this game.
But LeBron James was rolling on all cylanders, and when that happens, the game is, simply put, pretty much over. In the first quarter, he immediately got everyone involved, establishing Z by setting him up with easy jumpers out of a trap and finding Delonte and Andy for layups, and going off-the ball to get a dunk. Then he found his own jumper and began railing in threes. In the third, he fell in love with the deep-ball a little bit and the offense stagnated, but in the fourth he came out attacking the basket and pressuring the defense, either getting his own shot or getting to the line.
Overall, LeBron went:
4-6 from the immediate basket area
6-9 from midrange
5-10 from three
12-16 from the line
He’d rain the jumper. He’d make the pass. He snatched the rebounds and kept the Hawks from getting hustle buckets. He’d go to the hole and get the contact. When his lane got cut off, he’d pull up and hit from mid-range. It was just all working. There was no answer.
Defensively, the Cavs recovered in the second half and made their adjustments, stopping run-outs, keeping Joe Johnson from having space to work in, and allowing the law of averages to go to work on Josh Smith jumpers.
Bullets of Randomness:
Even hitting an abnormally high percentage of his jumpers, Smith failed to score efficiently, finishing with 18 points on 20 attempts.
The Hawks did find ball movement in this game, and Flip Murray’s shot was on. But they really need those turnovers to get going, and the Cavs did a good job of cutting those town in the second half.
Another factor: it’s hard to run against an offensive rebounding team like the Cavs, who got a big 7 offensive boards from Andy tonight.
Alright, one game to go and then we wait for the winner of the Magic-Celts brawl. Now’s not the time to let up. That time will never come. Let’s get it done-see you on Monday.