An impressive defensive performance in the second half and J.R. Smith’s hot shooting gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a huge road win last night, as they defeated the Atlanta Hawks 97-89.
The Cavs wrested home court advantage from Mike Budenholzer’s squad with Game 2 taking place Friday night in Atlanta.
David Blatt’s team needs to get greedy and not settle for the split on the road, because they can drive a stake in the collective hearts of the Hawks with a victory tomorrow night.
Remember, the Bulls didn’t have that greed in the conference semi-finals, losing in the second game in a blowout. Our guess is that LeBron James will not let his teammates get complacent.
There has been some discussion as to whether or not Kyrie Irving, who seemed to aggravate his sore knee last night should play in the second game of the series so he can get healthy.
We see that point, but if the medical staff determines that Irving cannot hurt himself more by going out there, Irving should be out there again tomorrow.
As we once read, nothing is given, everything is earned.
If Irving were to sit out, it could send a message that the coaching staff is fine with the split in the Peachtree State, instead of showing a preference to get this series over as soon as possible.
Unless something shows up in an examination between games, Irving has tendonitis in his knees, so it’s just a matter of playing with the pain. Having an extra two days off, won’t help once he starts playing again.
There were five days off between ending the Chicago series and last night’s game, and once Irving started playing, the pain and discomfort returned.
Besides, it wasn’t as though Irving wasn’t effective when he was in there. Yes, he did have problems keeping Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder out of the paint, but he also had 10 points and six assists, and hit two big hoops when LeBron James was hobbled after turning an ankle.
We aren’t saying this is going to happen, but if Cleveland wins in Game 2, they are set up very nicely for a sweep, which would end the series next Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Since The Finals are slated to begin on June 4th, that would give the Cavs more than a week to heal up the assorted injuries they currently are saddled with.
We don’t think the Cavs will take their foot off the gas one bit, and as evidence look at the end of the game, when Iman Shumpert wouldn’t even allow Teague to get a meaningless three-point shot off before time expired.
James even acknowledged this in a comment today, saying his team “is just as desperate as the Hawks are”, despite having a series lead.
This is the veteran LeBron. He understands there is no relaxing in the playoffs now, and every game has to be approached as another opportunity to squash the will of the opponent.
Was it a nice win? Yes. However, the Cavaliers haven’t won anything yet. They still need three more wins and make no mistake, the Hawks are a good team, and they will probably shoot better on Friday.
We don’t expect Smith to be that hot again tomorrow, but maybe it will be Shumpert, or maybe Matthew Dellavedova will make a shot. Or perhaps Irving plays like he did in Game 5 vs. Chicago.
James and Blatt have a foot on Atlanta’s throat. No time to let up now.