#4 Atlanta Hawks vs. #1 Cleveland Cavaliers, CLE leads series 1-0 (8pm ET Wednesday, TNT)
The Cavs opened their second-round series against the Hawks with a 104-93 victory Monday, in which LeBron James once again went 25-7-9, leading his team in both scoring and assists. Cleveland benefited from some long range sharpshooting, hitting on 15 of 31 3-pointers, with JR Smith leading the way by going 4-of-7.
Atlanta went into the fourth quarter down 74-70, but were up just 4 minutes later, 80-79. Over the next 4 minutes there were three ties and three lead changes, the last one in favor of the Cavs, 90-88. Down the stretch Atlanta hit on just 1 of 7 from the field and committed 3 turnovers as the Cavs pulled away.
It’s impressive that Atlanta kept it as close as they did, given that they were essentially playing 4-on-5 on offense for much of the night, as the Cleveland D shut down Kyle Korver. Korver, who averaged 9.2 ppg on 7.7 field goal attempts, was held to 3 points, all on free throws, as he missed on his lone jumper, a 26-footer late in the first half, leaving a lot of slack for his teammates to pick up. Were it not for the heroic efforts of Dennis Schroder, who scored 27 points and dished out 5 assists, things could’ve gotten ugly.
To put LeBron’s taken-for-granted greatness into perspective, since the 1984 playoffs, only 50 players have had as many as 25 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists in a game, and of those no one has done it more times than James, 23. Magic? 17. MJ? 14. Bird? 10. Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Alex English, Patrick Ewing, Dennis Johnson, and John Stockton collectively did it 23 times. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cherry pick, but still…