Game 2 Preview: Hawks vs. Cavaliers

Basketball Insiders previews Game 2 of the Hawks-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals series.

Lang Greene profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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#1 – Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks seemed to have all of the breaks bouncing in their favor going into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Hawks had home court advantage, all of their rotation players were in good health and the Cleveland Cavaliers were short one All-Star (Kevin Love) and could only use another (Kyrie Irving) in a very limited capacity. But even with the stage set, the Hawks dropped Game 1 of the series to the Cavaliers, 97-89, were torched by guard J.R. Smith’s playoff career-high 28 points and lost starting forward DeMarre Carroll to a knee injury early in the fourth quarter.

The Carroll injury, especially, seemed to suck the life of the Hawks who still managed to scrap together a furious fourth quarter comeback. Carroll will have a MRI to determine how much time he’ll be out of the lineup. However, there are more than a few things the Hawks will need to adjust moving forward.

Atlanta was outrebounded by Cleveland 49-37 and the Cavaliers duo of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson combined to snag a total of nine offensive rebounds (while the Hawks as a team had seven). The Hawks also shot an abysmal 4-of-23 (17.4 percent) from beyond the three-point line.

However there were some positives for the Hawks on display despite the loss. All-Star guard Jeff Teague came out aggressive from the tip with an injured Irving and proceeded to score 27 points, on 24 field goal attempts. Veteran guard Kyle Korver, who had scored a combined 17 points in his last four contests, dropped nine points in Game 1 on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor in 36 minutes.

#2 – Cleveland Cavaliers

On paper, this Cleveland Cavaliers team appears to be up against it as they continue their quest for a NBA title. All-Star forward Kevin Love is out for the remainder of the playoffs, while All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is struggling with knee tendinitis, which is obviously impacting his explosiveness (and minutes played). But the Cavaliers have the best player on the planet in LeBron James and that is the big equalizer and the primary reason why Cleveland keeps rolling. James recorded 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the team’s Game 1 victory.

Throughout the playoffs, the Cavaliers have benefited from various guys stepping up on a game to game basis to offset their injury issues. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals close-out game versus the Chicago Bulls, unheralded guard Matthew Dellavedova was the hero. In Wednesday’s Game 1 Conference Finals victory, veteran guard J.R. Smith came off the bench to score 28 points and sink eight three-pointers to help James lift the Cavs to the win.

With James and Smith scoring with relative ease, it’s easy to forget about the guys doing the dirty work. The duo of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson both recorded double-doubles and combined to produce 24 points and 21 rebounds, holding their own versus Atlanta’s All-Star frontcourt of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. The responsibility of having to guard James also impacted the production of DeMarre Carroll, who entered the contest leading the Hawks in scoring during the playoffs. Carroll scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor before leaving the game due to a potentially serious knee injury.

Who Wins Game 2?

The potential loss of DeMarre Carroll is a huge blow to Atlanta’s playoff hopes. However, the team still has four healthy All-Star players in the rotation. But the loss of Carroll thrusts reserve Kent Bazemore into a larger role as he will likely get a strong dose of the LeBron James assignments moving forward.

Look for the Cavaliers to put the Hawks against the ropes and snag Game 2 as Atlanta adjusts to a new look lineup.

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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