Hawks: Much Improved But Can’t Stop Cavs



Atlanta – There was a buzz around downtown Atlanta on Thursday evening. The Atlanta Hawks were slated to be in action but it was their opponent that proved to be the cause of much of the commotion. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came to Philips Arena as winners of 9 straight contests and looking to avenge a surprising home loss to the Hawks earlier this month. Atlanta, after having 5 days off, looked to erase the bad memories of their last outing where they were blown out in nearly record setting fashion by the Toronto Raptors.  Atlanta returned to what has become its form for this season: high energy, entertaining basketball. This despite recently learning they would be without center Dewayne Dedmon who is recovering from a foot injury. However, as has been the case far too often this season,  the Hawks were not able to overcome a one possession deficit to put an end to the Cavs winning ways. Cleveland’s revamped “Big 3” of James, Kevin Love and Dewayne Wade combined for 68 points as Cleveland fought off a valiant effort from the home team to earn a 121-114 win and extend its winning streak to 10.


Atlanta’s enthusiastic approach to their matchup with the Eastern Conference champions was a welcomed sight for those who endured the 35-point thrashing five nights earlier. For every quick move Cleveland made through the first quarter, Atlanta would respond just as quickly. Rookie forward John Collins was very active early in the game: using his tremendous athletic ability to keep plays alive and finish those plays at the rim. Collins scored 9 of his 13 points in the 1st period of play and the Hawks desperately tried to keep pace with the hot shooting Cavaliers. Cleveland’s scouting report was clear from the beginning. The plan would allow the Cavs to space the floor, allow their best player to create plays for others, and take advantage of an Atlanta defense that has been porous when it comes to three point defense (Toronto shot over 40% from 3). What Cleveland did was execute that plan to perfection as they made 7 3-point baskets in the first half alone while James closed the half strongly with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists. The biggest surprise of the first half was the fact that despite the success, the Cavs found themselves down 4 at the half to a team that has shown an ability to curb the Cavs’ dominance in the regular season.

Atlanta’s first half success can be traced to its young stud, Dennis Schroder, and the support from veterans signed to aid in the maturity of Atlanta’s young core.  Reserves Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova were able to hurt the Cavalier defense from the outside while Schroder found seams in the paint to score at the rim. Schroder scored 17 of his game high 27 points during the back and forth first half.


Cleveland continued the onslaught from outside at the start of the 2nd half (Cleveland would shoot a blistering 42.6% for the game).  A barrage of 3’s quickly turned a four point deficit into an eleven point lead (90-79) after back to back 3 pointers from James and J.R. Smith. However, Atlanta would not go away quietly. Cleveland reserve Cedi Ausman’s 3 point basket with just over 9 minutes remaining pushed Cleveland’s lead to 10 amid the groans of the home fans in Atlanta. The Hawks’ blend of new and old once again stepped up as 11 of the next 15 Atlanta points were scored by Schroder, Ilyasova, or Belinelli. The second of Ilyasova’s two free throws, with just under 3 minutes remaining, cut the Cleveland lead to 1: 113-112. A Dwayne Wade offensive foul gave Atlanta the ball with a chance to take a late lead, finish the Cavs’ streak, and provide a major boost of much needed confidence for this young Atlanta team.


However, tonight was not Atlanta’s night as Schroder’s 20-foot jumpshot fell short. With new life, James and Wade did what they do best: closed the door. The duo scored all eight of the final points for Cleveland as the visitors from the buckeye state escaped with their winning streak intact. While appreciative of the effort, Hawks fans were once more forced to await another Hawks victory.

And just like that the buzz is gone.


Next Up:

Atlanta Hawks v. Brooklyn Nets

Saturday, December 2nd

Barclays Center; Brooklyn NY






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