There would be no drama tonight. The Atlanta Hawks put down the Cleveland Cavaliers easily in a 108-89 win.
The Hawks came out of the blocks on a mission. They used their quick hands to cleanly swipe the ball and start fastbreak opportunities. The Hawk’s first three steals led to seven points. That would be the story of the game: the Hawks stout transition defense and the Cavs’ lax transition defense. The final tally was 16 points off of 11 turnovers for the Hawks and seven points off of 13 points for the opposition.
It quickly became clear the Cavs could not handle the Hawks’ arsenal of weapons. They diced up the paint defense by taking advantage of the slow-footed Cleveland big men. All it took was one player to penetrate and two were left alone on the three point arc. Newsflash: the Hawks have very capable long range shooters.
The Hawks used the disorganized halfcourt defense of the Cavs to their benefit behind the arc. It quickly became a three-point barrage in the first half, and the Hawks nailed four-of-seven from deep. The Hawks would cool off, however, to the tune of 8-of-23 by the final whistle.
Paul Millsap hit a 50-foot backcourt buzzer-beating heave at the end of the first quarter and it pretty much summed up the entire game for the Hawks. Atlanta slowed down in the second quarter and beyond but the lead they sustained in the first quarter held up for the entire game.
Andrew Bynum’s size was clearly a focus, as the the frontcourt came in Horford/Ayón and Millsap/Brand pairs in the second quarter to help combat his large frame. Ayon chipped in six points and seven rebounds.
The big story of course was Kyle Korver breaking a 17-year record for consecutive games with a made three-pointer. The Hawks called a timeout and PA announcer Ryan Cameron gave him a nice cat call for the fans to give him an ovation.
Backup point guard Shelvin Mack had another game of steady play off of the bench. It’s been impressive to see how he turned a legitimate training camp battle for a spot on the roster into a stranglehold on the backup point guard spot and about 16 minutes of NBA action every game. He ranks among the league leaders in distance travelled per minute, much of it coming in transition I would bet. He’s adept at finish at the rim and can run the pick-and-roll with the best of them.
The Hawks had balanced scoring with seven players in double-figures.
Kyrie Irving was held scoreless for the first time in his career as another roadblock in a difficult year for him and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They also clamped down on the three-point line, only giving up 5-of-20 shooting from there.
The Hawks were not without their blemishes. Dion Waiters created a lot of separation for his midrange shots. Waiters put in a career-high 31 points and was the only consistent source of offense for the men in maroon. Bynum’s big body could hardly be stopped in the low post. He had a monster 20-point and 13-rebound output.
Still, the Hawks won comfortably clearly showing near mastery of the offense that was installed in the offseason. It was not a difficult task to find open cutters by drawing Bynum or Varejao away from the basket.
The win puts the Hawks at a record of 11-10 and in the third spot in the East. However, binoculars are needed to look up at the Pacers and Heat ahead of them in first and second place, respectively.
Next game is not until Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder at home in Atlanta.
1. Paul Millsap: We all know about Millsap’s scoring prowess but his work on the offensive boards the was most impressive takeaway from tonight. He grabbed an impressive 7 rebounds en route to a 16 and 14 night. So much for being too undersized.
2. Al Horford: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: He shot the lights out from midrange today. He was also a rebound away from a double-double. These are all the things Hawks fans come to expect from a potential All-Star again this season.
3. Kyle Korver: He broke a record. That should automatically warrant a game ball. But he didn’t stop there. He put in another 3 pointer later and finished with 10 points on 6 shots. His motto sent down from the immortal Allen Iverson rings even truer tonight, “Shooters shoot! Shooter’s shoot the ball”.