Frustration and everything else that cost the Hawks Game 3
With 5:30 left in the game, the Hawks and Cavs were tied and LeBron James was dragging up and down the court. Atlanta had managed to hang tight in a game full of drama and big shots, but their season long deficiencies became glaring issues after losing their heart and soul in the first half.
Coach Bud couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to start the game. James was scoreless in the first quarter and with Kyrie Irving out that meant the Cavs were relying on some unproven talent to step up. Unfortunately, the Hawks managed just a 3 point lead going into the 2nd quarter……really…..LeBron scoreless for 12 minutes and you’re only up 3….not a good sign. James didn’t even get a field goal until almost 5 minutes into the 2nd quarter. This is not the way to take advantage of a slow start by the other team’s best player.
Fast forward to the final minute of the first half……
Matthew Dellavedova and Al Horford are chasing down a loose ball and as Al is reaching down for the ball, Delly is falling to the ground and into Horford’s knee. Horford then drops down with a WWE elbow that gets him a Flagrant II and is told to kick rocks. We can debate whether the play deserved an ejection or if Dellavedova is a dirty player, but the reality is that Al Horford is considered a pro and a leader. He’s gotta know his importance to his team.
(For the record: Dellavedova dove after loose balls that both Hawks players “reached” down to grab. Coaches don’t teach players to “reach hard” they teach young players to dive for the ball. Get over yourselves…..the Cavs were throwing Atlanta beat downs before Korver got hurt!)
So with Horford gone, the Hawks seemed to just lose steam. They hung tight and even forced overtime, but I never got the feeling the Cavs were in trouble. Teague dropped in 30, but had no help in the backcourt. Demarre Carroll is making a valiant effort with his knee injury, but his 2 assists and 10 points were a drop in the bucket compared to what he gives up on defense. He doesn’t have the lateral quickness or the core strength to battle with LeBron and he’s severely hobbled when going up for rebounds.
Kyle Korver, out with an ankle sprain, wasn’t even missed last night. Shelvin Mack shot 50% from the field (3/7 from 3pt) and gave the Hawks 4 rebounds to go with his 13 points. What doesn’t show up in the box score is the physical play of Mack. He carries his 6-3/207 with a lot more strength and shows more on defense than Kyle ever has.
The other two contributors for the Hawks last night were Mike Scott and Kent Bazemore. Both had seen their minutes cut in the postseason and I couldn’t understand why. Scott’s minutes had been cut in half until last night and even though he didn’t shoot well, he grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 2 assists to go with his 8 points. Bazemore is a different kind of player for the Hawks. He isn’t always terribly efficient but he has slashing capabilities and rebounds well for his size (7 last night). He’s no Kwahi Leonard, but that’s a role that’s gone unfilled in Atlanta all season.
I appreciate that Coach Bud is finally going all out with his rotations. When you’re facing the King, there can’t be any bad ideas…..only options. But being scrappy will only get you so far. Players get you to the Promised Land, not philosophies and the Hawks simply don’t have the players to match up. As solid as he was last night, Shelvin Mack was the guy with the last two looks for Atlanta……LeBron, CP3, Chef Curry, The Beard he is not.
Everybody loves the gritty underdog, but in the end it’s the big dogs that hunt.