The 2014-2015 season is over for the Atlanta Hawks.
With their backs against the wall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks struggled mightily in the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers and, frankly, they never recovered. The end result was a 118-88 defeat, and the spectacle of watching LeBron James and company celebrate a berth in the NBA Finals on their home court.
The game began, as noted above, with a whimper. Cleveland raced to a 12-4 advantage in the opening moments, and that spurt included a massive dunk from LeBron and a resurgent appearance from Kyrie Irving. By the time the first quarter ended on a buzzer-beating jumper from Tristan Thompson, the Cavs led by 12, and the Hawks were just 0 of 6 from beyond the three-point arc against Cleveland's 4 of 7 mark from the same distance.
Things didn't improve in the second quarter, as the deficit quickly grew to 15 after a 7-0 run by the home team. Then, the margin kept increasing, eventually reaching the 20-point plateau after a 10-3 spurt with the Cavs leading 53-33. By the halftime break, the Hawks were down "only" 17, but Cleveland's statement was made with a 51% shooting clip in the half.
The opposition was led LeBron (15 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds) and Kyrie (11 points in 12 minutes), but it was a total team effort from Cleveland. For the visiting squad, only Paul Millsap (14 points, 7 rebounds in the half) showed much of a pulse in the first 24 minutes, though Jeff Teague did add 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting.
On cue, the second half didn't begin in stellar fashion, either, with the Cavs jumping out to a 22-point lead after a 7-2 opening run. Atlanta did respond, though, with an 11-4 spurt of their own to climb within 15 at 70-55, but even amid multiple opportunities to get back into the game, the Hawks simply couldn't make shots when needed.
in that vein, the Cavs closed the third quarter on a 15-5 run to effectively put the game away, and the Hawks trailed by 25 points as the fourth quarter arrived. From there, it was simply academic. Atlanta trailed by as many as 31 points in the final period, and there was nothing in the way of a comeback bid on the way to the final 118-88 result.
This was not a pleasurable night for fans of the Atlanta Hawks, but in the same breath, this was a fantastic season for the club. Optimism will not reign at this moment in time, and with good reason, but the Hawks can take solace in the most productive season since the franchise moved to Atlanta, and there will be more to come in evaluation of this series and what will come next.