Forget the excuses, this team was outworked tonight.
The good guys went into Cleveland to face the Eastern Conference Champs without Kyrie Irving and Mo Williams but with the same cast of characters that sent the Hawks packing in the summer. What played out was much the same as it did then, a physical team outworked their guests and the Cavs proved another point against the Hawks with a 109-97 win Saturday night.
Oh sure, there are going to be folks who complain about the officiating, brought to you in usually brutal fashion by Tony Brothers, architect of all evil officiating, but to simply stay contained on that ignores the bashful drives to the hoop, the passive rebounding on the defensive end and the careless play of key personnel in this loss.
The Hawks are going to finish with a great record, 60 wins no doubt, but they have a major hurdle to clear in their growth if they can't go into games with a physical sense of urgency they just aren't getting up and down the roster.
Dennis Schröder started the game and as much as we've looked at Teague for his lack of leadership, for a player that says he wants starter's minutes, Schröder played carelessly, fumbling the opening tip out of bounds and picking up two quick fouls in two minutes, neither of which was made any sense. When he returned early in the second quarter, he flopped on a Dellavedova post up and left the court again.
Mike Budenholzer let the nonsense of the Tony Brothers Experience get to him, too. When Justin Holiday drove for a dunk and ended up with a face full of JR Smith's hand with no repercussions, Budenholzer chased the official while on the court, practically facing up for a three-pointer, and then when the official inevitably stopped, he bumped him, earning an automatic ejection.
Look, maybe Kevin Love is the guy that reads your newspaper and then puts it back on your doorstep with the sports section still gone and will never admit it's him. Maybe Dellavedova is the annoying guy in your office that shoots rubberbands at your head and when you stand up to tell him to stop, your boss calls you into his office for disruption. LeBron is just awesome, let's move on.
JR Smith resumed his Certified Hawk Hater three point barrage as he hit four three pointers in the first half. Tristan Thompson owns all of your rebounds. And LeBron is awesome -- this is enough on its own.
The Hawks fought hard in the second half behind Horford, Millsap and Teague, but continue to operate under the assumption that they have to be convinced at some point in the game to be physical and play with urgency whereas they should be making this their identity every game, as it was last season during The Streak.
When they do this, they'll be able to match up with the Eastern Champs. Until then, they'll always have the rest of the regular season.