Check out the podcast that Nate and I recorded tonight. It’s available at Soundcloud , and iTunes. (CtB Episode 57!) Here’s a short and sweet recap to supplement your insatiable desire for Cavs analysis. The Cavs moved the ball well in the first quarter and played the Hawks to a draw. They completely choked when the Hawks turned up the intensity in the second quarter and then Kevin Love left the game with back spasms. The Cavs, without LeBron, Love, or Marion, started the second half by watching Kyle Korver drain a couple of threes to push the lead to 17. It looked like the Cavs were going to get blown out of the gym. But they fought back behind the wizardry of Kyrie Irving, the power and relentlessness of Tristan Thompson, and some gutsy-if-not-quite-effective defense throughout the contest. They were within striking distance throughout the fourth quarter in a back and fourth affair where they cut the deficit three on three different occasions, and to two with 4:43 left. The Hawks absorbed the blows and settled into some two-man action between Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, eventually putting the Cavs away.
Kyrie Irving finished with 35 points and nine assists (and almost none of his shots were easy looks) but he coughed it up eight times in a game where the referees refused the blow their whistles for three quarters without a coroner on the scene and flipped the switch in the fourth – needing little more than pantomime routines to stop the action. Irving looked a lot like he did last year – dribbling through double teams, taking a lot of those “why not” 3s from five feet behind the line, and of course, finishing at the rim from impossible angles.
Tristan Thompson had a really nice game. His energy, offensive rebounding, and finishing abilities infected the Cavs in the 3rd and 4th quarters. His alley-oop execution of Jeff Teague was a sight to behold. He finished with 18 points on 12 shots and 13 rebounds. He was old-man-at-the-gym’d by Paul Millsap all night long with the help of the referees, but he played a valiant game.
Dion Waiters and Kevin Love didn’t show up, figuratively speaking, and since LeBron James and Shawn Marion literally didn’t show up this game tested the Cavs’ depth. Joe Harris was 3/4 from beyond the arc and had a few heady plays (and a gut-wrenching layup attempt that licked every inch of the rim before willing itself out).
Someone put on James Jones’ jersey and a Mission Impossible 2 mask because at least three times I had to double take “wait…James JONES just rejected Paul Millsap at the rack!?” He missed a bunch of wide open 3s and was supremely active on defense. Not your mother’s James Jones. Over/under on the number of days until JJ has three steals and two blocks again? I’m going infinity days.
All in all it was nice to see the Cavs dig deep when the dam was about to burst and make a game of it. The Hawks are a really good team and will be a formidable playoff foe. Their offensive talent was too much for the Cavs to stop in the waning moments of the game. Ultimately the Cavs need to play like this every night (a scrambling defensive effort for 48 minutes) and at full strength they will win more than they lose.