Hawks fall 94-82 to Cavaliers, trail 2-0 in series
ATLANTA (AP) — After using team play to overcome their lack of a true superstar all season, the Atlanta Hawks look outmatched against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Unable to contain James, excelling even as Kyrie Irving was held out, the Hawks lost to the Cavaliers 94-82 on Friday night to fall behind 2-0 in the Eastern Conference final.
With the next two games in Cleveland, the Hawks will need a turnaround just to bring the series back to Atlanta.
They’ll also need a return to the ball-sharing approach that helped them win the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Hawks had only 15 assists and were held to 33 points in the second half.
“We’ve got to get back to playing unselfish basketball,” said DeMarre Carroll, a surprise starter despite a sprained left knee. “Sometimes we get down and everyone tries to take over one on one.”
Too often, the isolation approach led to missed 3-pointers. The Hawks made only 6 of 26 3s, while the Cavaliers were 12 of 30.
“I think we’ve got to be a lot better offensively,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who called for a return to their ball-sharing approach.
“It’s the concepts and the ideas, there are a lot of things that really, whether we were doing them in the middle of the season, that we kind of talk about regularly and we’ve got to just execute them at a higher level. In the playoffs, it takes more — better execution, better screening. You’ve got to do things harder.”
The Hawks had far too little offense to keep up with James, whose nine rebounds left him just shy of a triple-double. James had game-high totals of 30 points and 11 assists.
Carroll’s return from his Game 1 injury was not enough to slow James’ drive for a fifth straight spot in the NBA Finals.
Carroll, who grimaced as he sat down for the postgame news conference, acknowledged he was far from completely healthy.
“When you’re a little kid, you dream of opportunities like this, playing in the Eastern Conference finals and playing against one of the best players in the world,” Carroll said. “I didn’t care if I had one leg. I wasn’t going to let this pass me by.”
The Cavaliers, already missing Kevin Love, kept rolling even though Irving’s sore left knee meant they were left with only one of their trio of stars. When James still standing, one star was enough.
The Hawks know they now face long odds.
“At this point, our backs are against the wall,” Kent Bazemore said. “They’re trying to put the foot on our throat.”
The Hawks hit the first basket — a 3-pointer by Kyle Korver. That would be their biggest lead of the game.
By the end of the game, Korver was in the locker room with an ankle sprain that threatens his status for Game 3.
Carroll led the Hawks with almost 34 minutes but managed only six points. Atlanta’s other starting forward, Paul Millsap, had only four points. Backup point guard Dennis Schroder led Atlanta with 13 points. Korver had 12, but only two after the opening period. Al Horford and Jeff Teague also had 12 points.
Korver left with about a minute remaining in the third period with a right ankle sprain and walked straight to the locker room. He didn’t return.
Horford also limped off the court early in the fourth quarter. He returned about 3 minutes later.
Budenholzer said he hopes Horford “will be OK” but was concerned about the severity of Korver’s injury.
James attacked Carroll from the start, testing the knee.
“It’s always difficult to guard LeBron,” Carroll said. “He’s a physical player and a smart player. He knew I was injured, so he came at me full force. I would have done the same if he was injured.”
Cavaliers: Cleveland outrebounded the Hawks 47-39 in the game for a 96-76 advantage through two games. ... Iman Shumpert hit four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. ... Matthew Dellavedova started for Irving and had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. ... James has eight double-doubles in the postseason. It was his sixth game with at least 30 points in the postseason.
Hawks: Injured forward Thabo Sefolosha, still on crutches, wore a suit as he sat on the Hawks’ bench. ... The starters combined for just 46 points. ... Millsap managed only four points on 2-of-8 shooting. ... Schroder has scored in double figures in seven games in the postseason.