The Atlanta Hawks made sure the world knew they were not going to be intimidated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The gutsy Hawks competed hard for about 44 minutes before going cold over the last four minutes in Cleveland.
Atlanta battled back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter to take a one-point lead with just over four minutes remaining in the game. LeBron James came up big and led the Cavs to the win, however, coach Mike Budenholzer saw positives in the performance.
On their performance, he said: “I thought the way our guys competed, really for the whole night, was what we need going forward. But I think we can play better. Obviously, Dennis (Schroder) had a great game for us.”
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Before continuing: “But I think, overall, the whole group can play better. Defensively, I think we had some possessions where we gave ourselves a chance and we just couldn’t quite come up with a couple big rebounds late. But for game one, I think we’ll learn a lot. We’ll be better going forward on both ends.”
Budenholzer is right, Schroder had a career night scoring 27 points, hitting five shots from downtown against Cleveland. He also got to the rim at will against an elite talent in Kyrie Irving. The 22-year-old led Atlanta in points and assists and finished the game having made half of his attempts.
The point guard led the comeback attempt but the Hawks ran out of gas. He said: “We played with pace on offence and we moved the ball very well. I think that’s what we’ve got to do against the Cleveland Cavaliers... We make a couple more shots in the first half, I think it’s a different ballgame.”
Kent Bazemore was a player that competed well for Atlanta. He scored the first eight points of regulation for the Hawks and kept them steady for most of the night. He finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.
When asked what to take away from game one and into the next encounter, the 26-year-old remarked: “It was a tremendous effort by us (with) our backs against the wall, down a ton. But, we gave ourselves a chance. We’ve been doing that a lot this season, and it’s only a matter of time before we get back in the game and kind of take it.”
For the Hawks, they are going to need to harness the energy they brought for the third quarter and stagger it over the course of an entire game.
They will also have to prove a bit more resilient, because when the Cavaliers get rolling from deep they can be hard to stop. Bazemore said after the game: “That’s what they do. You’ve got to kind of absorb those.”
If they can capitalise on all of these changes, roll with the punches and get Kyle Korver going from behind the arc, then game two has the potential to be very interesting.