CLEVELAND–-Ten observations from Hawks 117, Cavs 115 …
1. The Hawks were missing four rotation players because of injury, including two of their top three frontcourt players, and they were 11-1/2-point underdogs against the Cavs. “Whoever is dressed and playing needs to compete at a high level and do all the things we’ve been working on from camp, and film and practice,” Coach Mike Budehnolzer said, and that’s what happened. The Cavs aren’t in peak form and looked slow, old and frustrated until rallying late in the game. But this was still a very good W for the Hawks under the circumstances.
“Happy for our guys to come on the road and get a win in Cleveland,” Budenholzer said. “Not easy to do. Just really happy with our activity, with our competitiveness. I felt like (it was) the most together we were. A lot of guys contributed, a lot of guys got shots and the ball moved well.”
Before the game Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he wished his players didn’t know the Hawks were short-handed because they don’t respond well in those circumstances. Lue post-game: “I just think that every night we have to respect our opponent and have a sense of urgency. Not the fourth quarter, not the last six minutes but from start to finish. It’s been happening over the course of last four years. When guys are out or we’re playing teams that don’t have a good record, we have to understand that they’re still going to compete and they’re still going to play hard.”
2. The Hawks ran out to a 16-point lead after less than eight minutes with Luke Babbitt, Dewayne Dedmon and Dennis Schroder as the main protagonists. The Cavs appeared sluggish from the start, and missing lots of open 3-pointers seemed to deflate them more. Budenholzer: “The afternoon game, maybe that’s to our advantage with a little bit younger team. The guys came out and went straight to the gas early and it helped us.”
3. The Cavs showed more spirit in the second half but the Hawks were up to the challenge. The Hawks made it hard with some shaky play in the final minute but held on for the hard-earned W when Channing Frye missed an open 3-pointer and Dwyane Wade couldn’t convert on a tip-in.
4. When the Cavs (and their fans) woke up from their slumbers in the third quarter and got within 67-61, Schroder scored the 13 consecutive points for the Hawks over the five possessions to push the lead back to 80-64. That prompted fans to boo the home team. Budenholzer: “I’m thinking about taking a timeout and he just decides to put pressure on the rim and attack and then he just kind of went on a little run himself. That was a huge stretch for him individually and us as a team to weather that push they made in the third quarter.”
5. Babbitt (17 points on 13 shots, two assists) took advantage of James’ tendency to freelance on defense while making 4 of 9 shots in the first half, with at least three of those misses on wide open looks. When the Cavs started to run Babbitt off the 3-point line he was effective getting into open space and surprisingly smooth with his moves in the paint. He didn’t finish those shots but he created them. The Cavs attacked him on screen-rolls with success but Babbitt’s plus-seven seems to be an accurate reflection of his impact.
Babbit played a career-high 42 minutes. “I don’t know the last time I played 42 minutes,” Babbitt said. “I don’t’ even know if it was in college. Maybe an overtime game. But it’s been a while. I’m going to h it the ice tub tomorrow for sure.”
6. From the looks of it, James was not interested in playing a lot of defense. The Hawks seemed to notice and did what they could to get James involved in screen-rolls and switches. James also didn’t seem inclined to drive to the basket. Maybe carrying the Cavs to that W in Washington with 57 points took something out of James.
7. The Cavs climbed back into the game in the first half against the Hawks’ second unit. Wade (19 first-half points) picked on Isiah Taylor, who didn’t allow Wade around him and made him work hard to get space. But Wade used his size advantage to get clean looks. He can still make that turnaround jumper and draw fouls.
8. Taylor countered with an efficient offensive game: 14 points on 12 shots, three assists, three turnovers. He took it to heart when Budenholzer told him to be more aggressive offensively. Against the Cavs he had a nice balance of looking to score and looking for his teammates. Taylor missed two free throws with the game on the line that set up the Cavaliers final attempt but that was wiped away with the win.
9. Schroder (28 points on 13 shots, nine assists) thrived while attacking the slow-footed, slow-to-react Cavs. Instead of probing the defense with his dribble, Schroder was a bit quicker with his decisions. Two of Schroder’s six turnovers cane on offensive fouls in the fourth quarter. Budenholzer’s reaction to the second one earned him a technical foul from official Tony Brothers.
10. The Hawks’ thin frontcourt was taxed further when Dedmon (15 points, seven rebounds) was called for two fouls early in the game. That led to an early appearance by John Collins, who immediately took advantage of Kevin Love’s tendency to be bad at defense. Collins struggled to finish shots around the basket but he kept at it while doing his usual good work on the boards (12 rebounds). Collins collected nine rebounds in the fourth quarter (albeit with three turnovers) and was on the court at the finish.
Collins: “Coach is showing even more confidence in me and allows me to go out there in the fourth quarter and play the way I play. They told me I am going to have to earn those minutes and I thought I did a good job, or a better job, of playing to my strengths out there.”
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