Cleat Geeks

Cavs Dominate Hawks In Game 1….Sort Of

Watching Game 1 Monday night, you would have thought Cleveland was up 20 plus points the entire game. Somehow this wasn’t the case, as Atlanta hung around all while playing terribly for most of the game.

Korver, Millsap and Horford were a combined 2 for 17 in the first half. Jeff Teague played scared and left points on the table all night. He finished just 2 for 9 from the floor for 8 points. The normally solid 4-5 combo of Horford and Millsap were a disaster. They finished the game a combined 10-32 shooting. Terrible performance. Just terrible.

AP Photo by: Chris Szagola

AP Photo by: Chris Szagola

The lone bright spots were Schroeder and Bazemore, the latter of which lit the Cavs up from deep in the first half.

LeBron did what he wanted. Whether it was thunderous dunks that electrified the crowd, or his forever streaky 3 ball, he delivered in large doses. Irving has become the Cavs leading scorer and offensive weapon so far this playoff run. Kevin Love had an abysmal shooting night (4-17 from the floor) as he was as frigid as a Cleveland winter’s night on Monday. He still managed a double-double.

Watching the game I really had no idea how Atlanta hung around. The key players on the Hawks were mostly no shows. Horford couldn’t play dead Monday. He was flat-out awful. Whether he was short arming midrange J’s, closing out on Kevin Love at the 3 line like a middle schooler, or being dominated on both ends by Thompson, he just plain didn’t show up. Kyle Korver is a gunner. He has been an All-Star, he has had entire seasons with sky high 3 point fg%, and is a solid all around player most nights. In Game 1 he attempted 1 shot through his first 24 minutes on the floor. He finished with 3 points, all from the foul line, in 37 minutes.

Cleveland was blistering from the land of 3 in Game 1. They had 13 makes from downtown through 3 quarters. They finished 15 for 31 from deep for the game.

How on earth was Atlanta in this game? Three minutes in to the 4th quarter it was a one point game. I was befuddled. And more than that, I was a little angry. Atlanta deserved to get their butts kicked, but it just wasn’t happening.

KyrieIrving2The Hawks took their first lead on a lob from Schroeder to Horford with 8 minutes remaining. It was Horford’s first impactful play of the night. The lead lasted about 10 seconds. Kyrie Irving responded with a 3 from the right wing to make it 82-80. It looked as if this game was going down to the wire. Atlanta fought down the stretch, spearheaded by a career night from Dennis Schroeder. He dropped 27, a playoff career high, on 50% shooting. But it turned out to be just short of enough.

Cleveland got stops when they needed them, Thompson was an absolute animal on the boards, and Atlanta’s lack of execution down the stretch cost them the chance of snagging this game, however improbable it seemed. Going forward its safe to say Cleveland will play better. Atlanta may play better as well, you just can’t discern whether or not that translates to wins. Cleveland is the better team on paper, they should have no issue continuing their dominance of the Hawks’ interior, and they play well on the road. Oh, and yeah, they have this guy named LeBron James.

Atlanta should be able to gut out a win on their home floor, I’m thinking Game 3. Cleveland left the door open tonight for an upset. In a game they dominated, the individual performance of Schroeder was nearly enough to squeeze out a win. It’s hard to see Cleveland being this vulnerable to a loss again this series. LeBron, Lue and co. will make adjustments to neutralize Schroeder. Maybe Horford wakes up at some point. Maybe Millsap or Korver can put together a great performance making things competitive. Maybe not.

The Hawks shot 38% from the field. They out rebounded the Cavs 48-44. The stats didn’t tell the full scope of what happened Monday. This was one of the strangest games I’ve watched in a long time.

If the Cavs play this uneven a game and win, it spells trouble for Atlanta. Regardless of who plays well, or when or where they do it, Cleveland looks like they’re running away with this series.

Cavs in 5.

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