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Hawks vs Cavaliers Game 3 preview: Atlanta faces tall task in Cleveland

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The Hawks trail the Cavaliers by a 2-0 margin and the team will operate with its back against the wall during Game 3 in Cleveland.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks are in significant trouble.

There is no way around that topic as the Eastern Conference Finals shift to Cleveland, as the Hawks trail the Cavaliers by a 2-0 margin on the heels of back-to-back losses at Philips Arena. Beyond that, Atlanta will be without Kyle Korver for the remainder of the playoffs due to an ankle injury, and DeMarre Carroll is likely to remain at less than 100% until the playoff run concludes.

On the "positive" side, Cleveland is also banged up a bit, as Kyrie Irving (who missed Game 2) is considered "questionable" for the first contest in Cleveland with continuing knee issues. It must be stated that the Cavs didn't seem to miss Irving in Game 2, as they rode a dominant defense to a breezy victory, but in the same breath, the drop-off from Irving to Matthew Dellavedova is sharp, and the Hawks would be in a more favorable position if Cleveland elected to "play it safe" with their All-Star point guard.

Still, the Hawks must look inward when approaching this contest. Atlanta's performance has been suboptimal in both games of the series, with an offense that is leaning heavily toward isolation ball and a defense that has struggled mightily to contain LeBron James and company. It will be interesting to see how Mike Budenholzer approaches the game on the offensive end without Korver, who has served as the principle floor spacer for the balance of the season. Budenholzer could deploy the two-point guard lineup of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder for extended minutes, elect to "go big" with more of the frontcourt options including Mike Muscala or Mike Scott, or simply insert Kent Bazemore into a more prominent role alongside Carroll.

At this point, the consensus is that the Cleveland Cavaliers have already wrapped up this series by nature of their two strong performances in Atlanta. While that is in line with the statistical evidence that we have of playoff history, the Hawks have displayed a toughness throughout the season that should provide some optimism to the Atlanta faithful that this group won't go down without a significant fight.

The Atlanta Hawks must play better, both individually and on a team-wide basis, in order to remain competitive in Cleveland, and it is now or never.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Sunday, May 24, 8:30 p.m. ET

Location: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio

TV: TNT

Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM