Cavaliers Still Looking For a Fight

As the Cavaliers were disposing of the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 at The Q last night I thought about how rare it is for an NBA team to have an 8-day layoff and come back playing better than they played before the break. Who does that? Kenny “The Jet” Smith over at TNT expected the Cavs to look rusty in Game 1. He also predicted that the Cavs would play soft due to the added emotion and nostalgia of LeBron’s pre-game MVP trophy-holding ceremony. Doesn't he realize that this team has been shattering records and winning awards all season? The first quarter back in Game 1 was the only time that this series has actually looked competitive, like the Cavs might have a fight on their hands.

Not the case. At least yet anyway.

More than a few things will have to go Atlanta’s way if they are going to successfully defend their home court and send this series back to Cleveland for Game 5. Here is a quick rundown of what the Hawks will need to do to give themselves a chance against LeBron & Co. as the series heads down to Atlanta.

1) Get Off to a Quick Start: The Hawks have come out aggressive on the offensive end in each of the first 2 games. Josh Smith made his first 4 or 5 shots in Game 1 and the Hawks ran out to a small lead. They will need to pound the ball inside and get Smith and Horford some good looks if they want to establish any kind of rhythm.

2) Put the Cavs in Foul Trouble: The Cavs will need to be careful and play smart in the early goings because I expect Atlanta to come out playing very aggressive and attack them. If LeBron James or Mo Williams picks up a few quick fouls it will force Mike Brown to substitute early and by doing that it will keep the Cavs from getting into an early rhythm both offensively and defensively.

3) Force a Shooting Contest: The Hawks would love the Cavs to come out and get into a shooting contest with them. Teams always seem to shoot better in their arena. The Cavs will not be able to afford very many “1 and done” possessions. LeBron can keep this from happening by challenging Atlanta’s defense and getting to the foul line. Mike Bibby has been lights out from behind the arc but he hasn't taken enough shots to make much of an impact. That will change at home and the Cavs need to be ready with their rotations and make sure they contest every shot and not leave Bibby with any open looks.

4) Enjoy a Little Home Cookin’: The Cavs have yet to play in a truly hostile playoff environment. That worries me a little bit. The two games in Detroit were close to 50/50 as hundreds of Cleveland fans made the 2-hour drive to the state up north. That won’t be the case down in the A-T-L, or Hot-Lanta (depending on your preference of slang hip-hop terminology). Expect the Atlanta faithful to come out loud and energized as they try to breathe new life into their tired and injury depleted Hawks. The key for the Cavs will be to keep the home crowd in their seats and it starts with not allowing the Hawks to get into an early rhythm. LeBron James should take the assignment of guarding Josh Smith in the early going to keep him from pumping up the crowd with a few thunderous between-the-legs dunks. Smith gets easily frustrated when played physically and when you combine that with the possibility of Joe Johnson not playing in Game 2 it means the pressure is on Smith to keep Atlanta in the series. If he handles the pressure well, the Hawks have a chance. If not, we could see a repeat of Games 1 and 2.

5) Get a Few "Lucky Bounces": This might be the most underrated aspect to the game of basketball. Sometimes one team seems to get every “bounce” and the ball just finds its way to the right player whether on a tip, rebound or loose ball. The more aggressive team will get the good bounces more often than not. The Cavs just did not get very many good bounces in the series against Boston in the Semi-Finals last year and it made the difference. A simple offensive rebound and reset of the shot clock be lethal in a close game late in the fourth quarter. Remember when the Cavs were one rebound away from upsetting the Pistons in the 2006 playoffs? One rebound. We failed to get it and Detroit scored and won the series. Good bounces mean everything and the Cavs have been getting them all season. Let’s hope that continues as they push deeper into the playoffs.


  1. Did you see what we did to Atlanta last night? The Cavs usually come out feeding Big Z early in the game, not yesterday. They went to Anderson and it surprised the Hawks. The Cavs got tricks!

  2. Good call! The best part about that was that Varejao made his first few shots. If they go to him and he misses the first few, I bet they go right back to Z.