I did not watch the election results on TV. It’s something you can check out online. Instead, I watched the Hawks go to Cleveland to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
I had this marked down as a loss that we had to get back. It’s the sort of game that you can lose and nobody would hold it against you if you don’t get blown out. Haters might, but nobody should give a shit about them anyway. So my benchmark was, “lose, but make it competitive.”
Well, it turns out that despite playing against the defending NBA Champions and a home crowd that is still ecstatic over that, we got the win. Snapping an 11-game losing streak to this team alone makes this a big win, but now there’s the possibility that this Hawks team is better than anyone gave it credit for.
How did we win this time? Well, the rebounding wizardry of new center Dwight Howard is reaping huge dividends. Meanwhile, Dennis Schroder (28 points) is proving to be a more consistent point guard than Jeff Teague ever was. So turnovers aside, we managed to score a lot of points on the Cavs despite no Kyle Korver.
Of course, the ultimate goal of any team that faces the Cavs, especially in Cleveland, is to either stop LeBron James or outscore him. Since we’ve been a defense-first team since the loss of DeMarre Carroll to Toronto two offseasons ago, only the former is realistic. Lebron’s high-scoring games on us was where Cleveland was destroying us, but all those games were before we got Howard. Another thing Howard has added to this team is that he’s an excellent defensive center, something Al Horford never was. As a result, we totally shut LeBron down in the first half. Without him making things happen, the Cavs had downright pathetic shooting efficiency.
So a few minutes into the third quarter, we built an 18-point lead because they couldn’t get any offense going. But I knew it couldn’t be that easy. LeBron doesn’t give up. Anyone who watched the Finals knows this. Sure enough, he finally started putting points on the board, though he would end up the game’s #5 scorer when it was all said and done. Still, the deficit was cut to 5 with a quarter to go.
But the comeback ended then and there. We started scoring points again. There were brief moments when the score was close, but Cleveland never lead in that quarter. Final score: 110-106.
Lot of basketball to play. We still have to play the Cavaliers twice more (but on our turf), and chances are, we meet them in the third consecutive postseason. And these are hardly the only tough games ahead of us. But if you you can win in Cleveland, you can beat anybody. True to Atlanta!