Give the Atlanta Hawks a bit of credit for their valiant effort in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But when the smoke finally cleared, it was the LeBron James led Cavs marching out of Philips Arena with a clutch 100-99 road victory.
This is the second consecutive season the Hawks have been swept by Cleveland in the playoffs. The series loss not only sends Atlanta home on an earlier than wanted vacation but it may also spell the end of their core group as we’ve come to know it.
Longtime Hawks starting point guard Jeff Teague sat out the fourth quarter as head coach Mike Budenholzer opted to run with Dennis Schroder. Teague was the subject of many trade rumors before the deadline, so the writing may already be on the wall. All-Star center Al Horford will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time since turning pro and with the salary cap expected to explode there will be plenty of suitors for his services.
Back to the game.
The Cavaliers continued their barrage from three-point range, a common thread throughout the series, with 10 first half makes from downtown – finishing with 16 for the game. Cleveland was led by Kevin Love’s 27 points and James’ near triple-double effort of 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for the game.
With less than two minutes remaining, Schroder put the Hawks on top 97-96 on an aggressive drive to the basket. However, James countered with a driving layup that was ruled goal tending by a challenging Paul Millsap.
Schroder once again attempted to drive the lane but was blocked from behind by forward Tristan Thompson and James hit a contested jumper from the wing over Millsap on the ensuing possession, putting the Cavs up 100-97. Schroder then scored on another drive to cut the lead to one.
The Hawks had a chance to win as time expired in regulation, but Millsap’s three-pointer clanked off the rim, further solidifying Cleveland’s dominance over the Hawks.
Schroder paced the Hawks with 21 points. Millsap finished with 19. Teague scored just five points and was virtually a non-factor just one game after committing a flagrant foul on James. Veteran forward Thabo Sefolosha, starting in his second consecutive game for the struggling Kyle Korver, finished with 16 points.
Next, the Cavaliers await the winner of the Toronto-Miami series where the Raptors hold a 2-1 lead.
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