Hawks look for answers after getting embarrassed by Cavs
ATLANTA (AP) — Thoroughly embarrassed by Cleveland’s record-setting performance, the Atlanta Hawks spent part of Thursday watching film from their Game 2 debacle.
Not the whole game, mind you.
No need to relive that nightmare.
“We watched parts of the tape,” coach Mike Budenholzer said Thursday, still sounding a bit shell-shocked. “To watch all of it was probably not needed.”
The Hawks had already gotten a firsthand look at the Cavaliers pouring in a staggering 25 3-pointers — an NBA record for either the regular season or playoffs — in a 123-98 blowout Wednesday night, pushing Cleveland to a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Even with the next two games at home, beginning with Game 3 Friday night, the Hawks seem to have little hope of slowing a clicking-on-all-cylinders team that has beaten them nine straight times going back to a sweep of last year’s Eastern Conference final.
“We’re frustrated but looking forward,” Budenholzer said. “I think we all know we have more to give coming back for Game 3 in Atlanta. There’s probably not a lot that can be taken from looking back, particularly at last night.”
If the Hawks were upset by the Cavaliers’ relentless long-range shooting, they kept it mostly to themselves.
Cleveland continued putting up 3s, even after building a 36-point halftime lead. Clearly chasing the record book, Dahntay Jones sank his team’s 24th 3 with 2 1-2 minutes left, and Mo Williams poured salt in Atlanta’s wounds by knocking down another.
“If you’ve got a team down in your building, you’ve got to put them away,” Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore said after the game. “We’d have done the same thing.”
Added teammate Al Horford: “When you’re in that position, you want to break the record. You’d think they would start missing, but everybody they played ... kept making them. When you see one go in, your confidence goes way up and everybody wants to join in.”
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue shrugged off any suggestion that his team tried to embarrass the Hawks.
“The players felt like it was within their grasp, they wanted to go for it,” Lue said Thursday. ” I don’t see anything wrong with it. We didn’t do anything malicious. We were up 40 points and we got our starters out with 4 minutes to go in the third quarter.”
Budenholzer said he’s got more important things to worry about than Cleveland’s barrage of 3s long after the game was decided.
“I am more focused on what we’re doing, what we need to do going forward,” the Hawks coach said. “That’s kind of just somewhat unimportant to us. I know some things have been said. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I need to make any comments.”
Indeed, there are plenty of other things to occupy the Hawks’ attention.
Defensively, Atlanta’s attempt to crowd the lane and devote much of its attention to stopping LeBron James has been a total flop. The Cavaliers simply have too many guys capable of making shots when the Hawks leave them open.
That was really on display in Game 2, when 10 players knocked down 3s. While Cleveland is unlikely to match the scintillating performance, it did provide a sort of worst-case scenario of what the Hawks are up against.
“LeBron James obviously attracts a lot of attention. It’s a tough matchup,” Budenholzer said. “When you have a player like him and you put shooting around him, all of them moving the ball, it’s a great challenge.”
The Hawks also have to find a way to get Kyle Korver going.
Atlanta’s leading 3-point threat scored only 10 points in the first two games of the series, totally smothered by Cleveland’s defenders even as the Hawks set one screen after another trying to get him open. He has just one basket from long range, on three attempts, rarely getting anything resembling a clear look beyond the arc — or anywhere else on the court, for that matter.
“We’ve got to be like Deion Sanders used to be — just shut off this side of the field and make him go to the other side,” Cleveland’s J.R. Smith said. “That’s the way I look at it. Lock in, chase him off as many screens as it takes and if he does get the ball, be prepared for him to shoot and just contest it as best as you can.”
All of which has left the Hawks thoroughly embarrassed.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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