Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was played in Atlanta, but it was the Cavaliers who got away with the victory, overwhelming the home side 97-89. With the game tied 63-63 midway through the third quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 22-4 run in seven explosive minutes to lead 85-67.
They got sloppy after that, and the Hawks came back to within four with less than a minute to play, but a Lebron James dunk would seal the deal and give Cleveland a 1-0 lead in the series. James would finish the game with 31 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Player of the game, however, was without a doubt J.R. Smith, who drained eight three-pointers (8-of-12 shooting), a franchise playoff record. His ability to make tough, contested shots was on full display in Philips Arena – he got smoking hot, scoring 17 of the 22 points during the Cavaliers’ game-changing run, hitting five long balls during that stretch.
The Hawks were destroyed on the board the entire evening, losing the rebound battle by a substantial margin (-12). Their 37 rebounds were a playoff low, as well as their 19 assists. The Cavs’ defense did a solid job and the Hawks were not able to find the open shooter. Kyle Korver was a non-factor in game 1, taking only five shots, as he was closely guarded by Shumpert the entire night.
If they want to get back into this series, they will have to find a way to get it going from behind the arc. The Hawks only shot 17.4% from three, making only 4-of-23. To put this in perspective, Atlanta made 5 or more three-pointers in 91 of the 95 games they played so far this year, averaging 10 makes during the regular season. Note that on two of the four occasions that they didn’t, the Hawks were playing the Cavaliers.
Game 2 will be played on Saturday, 10:30 AM AEST.