On a night when DeMarre Carroll appeared in heroic fashion and played 34 minutes on one leg, the rest of the Atlanta Hawks were not up to the challenge. The home team was competitive for a half, but the Cleveland Cavaliers effectively ran them out of the building after halftime, and that led to a final result of 94-82 to put the Hawks in a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The game began in encouraging fashion, as Kyle Korver (who attempted only five shots in Game 1) knocked down his first attempt of the game to give Atlanta the lead. Cleveland came back with vengeance, though, posting an 11-2 to force Mike Budenholzer into a timeout at the 6:48 mark of the first quarter.
Still, the NBA is a "game of runs", and the two teams exchanged 10-2 (from Atlanta) and 9-0 (from Cleveland) spurts before the end of the first quarter. Cleveland's push included a flagrant foul assessed to Pero Antic against LeBron James, and that (naturally) incensed the crowd at Philips Arena. The bigger issue for the Hawks, though, was on the glass, where Tristan Thompson snatched eight rebounds in the first quarter to provide extra opportunities for the Cavs.
Atlanta trailed by five points after one (thanks to 38% shooting), but the second quarter was more positive. The Hawks played the Cavs even at 28-28 in the period, and Kent Bazemore provided a lift with six points in his first stretch of play. The quarter was marred by hot shooting from Cleveland (7 of 11 from three in the half), but the Hawks did respond in kind with a flurry of late baskets in their own right, and that staved off LeBron, who finished the half with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
While Cleveland's supernova shooting hurt the Hawks in the second quarter, the rest of the game fell apart in the third. In fairness, the Cavs continued to knock down shots, including three straight triples in the midst of a five-trip scoring spree, and overall, Cleveland raced to a 21-6 run over approximately six minutes. LeBron James was, well, LeBron James, dominating the game in every respect, and at this point, he had produced 9 assists, with 8 of them leading directly to three-point field goals.
When the onslaught was over, the Cavs had a 20-point advantage, and even with a mini-run by Atlanta in the latter stages of the period, Cleveland took a nearly insurmountable 18-point advantage into the final 12 minutes.
At that point, the game was effectively over, but the Hawks did make a mini charge by beginning the half with a 6-2 "run". That brought the score to 86-72 with more than nine minutes remaining, but any momentum was quickly halted by Cleveland (and Atlanta's incompetence). In short order, Mike Budenholzer had punted to the tune of deploying a lineup that included Shelvin Mack, John Jenkins, Mike Scott, Mike Muscala, Pero Antic with five minutes on the clock, and the final result of 94-82 was not indicative of the lopsided nature of the contest.
LeBron James was, to be clear, the best player in the building. He finished with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists while dominating the game, and even on a night when Atlanta had nothing going, it was clear that he was the primary difference-maker from an individual perspective. For the Hawks, it was a woeful overall showing, but particularly from Paul Millsap (4 points in 27 minutes) and Jeff Teague (5 for 16).
To be honest, there is plenty of blame to pass around, beginning at the top with the Coach of the Year himself. In general, it was one of the more deflating performances in recent memory, and potentially the low point of an otherwise fantastic season. The Atlanta Hawks are in a massive hole with a 2-0 deficit as the series shifts to Cleveland, and we will see how the team responds in a few short hours.