LeBron James scored 25 points and dished out 17 assists while Kyle Korver scored 19 points off the Cavs bench.
For the Hawks, they were led by Taurean Prince’s career-high 24 points while Kent Bazemore added 20 points (we’ll touch on those two in a bit more detail).
Another three-point barrage
Are you really surprised? Well, you shouldn’t be...
Another meeting with the Cavs, another absolute bombardment from the three-point line as the Cavs hung 20 three-pointers (on 38 attempts) on the Hawks.
Let’s go through some.
The Cavs used the pump-fake to pretty good effect, sending the scrambling Hawks defenders away to open up great opportunities.
Here, Ersan Ilyasova doesn’t want LeBron turning the corner and slides over. LeBron finds Kevin Love who pump-fakes to shed Ilyasova and hits the three:
Kyle Korver also uses the pump-fake to shed his man to create a better shot:
The Cavs made some tough threes too, Kyle Korver hits one from deep:
The Hawks also had some defensive miscues. Here, DeAndre’ Bembry is caught napping somewhat as J.R. Smith hits the three (amazing, the only three Smith would hit):
But the main reason the Cavs hit so many threes was Atlanta’s defense of LeBron James opening opportunities for others.
The Hawks doubled LeBron often and with LeBron being able to pass the way he can, and the shooters being able to hit the shots they can, they made the Hawks pay.
The Hawks double LeBron on the block, and LeBron finds Korver with a ridiculous pass:
Dennis Schröder is hanging on the edge here, ready to double LeBron should he back down Bembry. Luke Babbitt covers Schröder’s man, Jose Calderon, leaving Jae Crowder open. LeBron finds him and Crowder hits the three:
Same story in the second half: Schröder hangs around LeBron, leaving Calderon open and LeBron finds him for three:
And just for an added exclamation point to their three-point shooting (not a LeBron double team but still), LeBron finds Korver with the behind the back pass:
Poor from the Hawks not picking up Korver in transition (but a ridiculous pass).
“It’s hard to guard them when they’re shooting like that,” said Tyler Cavanaugh postgame. “Korver’s such a deadly shooter, Love was making them, LeBron made a few. When they can spread you out like that, and also you got to help on LeBron, it makes it very difficult.”
Postgame, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer talked about the three-pointers and how LeBron James factored into their three-point defense.
“It’s a tried-and-true formula,” said Bud. “You have a great player, you put three-point shooting around him, it makes it tough. They had even more three-point shooting tonight. LeBron’s obviously a great facilitator, great passer. They made the plays, not just him, shooter still got to make shots.”
“At times I thought they made tough shots. We really put a lot attention on trying to make LeBron James not be able to get to the rim, get to the paint, get to the free throw line. I think he probably won that. He kicked it, Calderon made some threes, some other guys made some threes where just a lot of attention (was given) to James. The guys did what we wanted or asked them to do, and they made the read, they made the shots.”
It’s not luck that the Hawks allow so many threes against the Cavs so often — it’s a by-product of their defensive scheme against LeBron James. It’s not luck the Cavs have made a total of 48 threes against the Hawks this season alone, let alone holding both regular season and playoff records for threes made in a game, both against the Hawks.
It’s not a matter of ‘the Hawks roll in Cleveland, walk on the court and, boom, the Cavs just make 30 threes’, no. It happens because the Hawks double James and LeBron — because he’s LeBron James — finds the open guys and the Cavs have the shooters to punish schemes like this.
The Cavs recognize the Hawks’ scheme and it obviously allows LeBron to do what he did.
"I think they do a lot of double-teaming and tilting with the bigs, so that allows LeBron to just pick the guys apart," said Cavaliers head coach Ty Lue. "He's able to make passes over the double-team or to guys cutting for layups.”
The scary thing here is that J.R. Smith only made one three and Isaiah Thomas is still to return to the fold. The good news is that the Hawks don’t play the Cavaliers again until February 9th in Atlanta.
It’s tough not to talk about LeBron here — 25 points, 11-of-13 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from three, 17 assists (tying a career-best) and seven rebounds.
LeBron bided his time in this one, happy to wait and assist his teammates as the Hawks doubled him but when it was time to go, it was time to go.
LeBron struck in the third quarter and took over, scoring eight points and helped turned a 14 point halftime lead into a 21 point lead in a matter of minutes and this completely turned this game on its head.
Instead of the Hawks making a little run to begin the third and taking the game below double digits — setting up a possibility for a close fourth quarter — now you’re down by 21 and that’s obviously a huge difference, and LeBron James was at the fore of that in the third quarter.
And the passing... Wow. We looked at a few of his to Korver specifically, who didn’t quite know what to say about LeBron postgame.
"It's like I've run out of ways to explain his greatness," said Korver. "He's just amazing. He makes all of us better than we really are. That's just the way he plays, the way he leads the game. He's had to be in attack mode a lot of nights this season, but tonight you kind of feel the guys were hitting shots and he just went into playmaker mode. He was really looking for those passes. ... He has an ability to feel the game and he can do whatever the games call for (from) him, whether it's him being the scorer or getting down in the post, knock down 3s. He's kind of finding the whole thing right now. He's playing really good basketball."
You can’t help but feel good for Korver, who hit six threes last night — he was just made to play with a guy like LeBron James and it’s good to see him thriving at age 36, even if it came at the Hawks’ expense last night.
But, yes, LeBron James is very good...
Tyler Cavanaugh’s first NBA start
Hawks two-way player Tyler Cavanaugh made his first NBA start on Tuesday and scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting and picked up nine rebounds.
This great story continues for Cavanaugh, who performed as well as he probably could’ve against a team like this on the road, and he got to start in front of his old teammates with the Hawks’ G-League affiliate Erie Bayhawks in attendance last night. Postgame, Bud revealed that he started Cavanaugh for matchup purposes, not wanting to match Miles Plumlee (who came off the bench) against Kevin Love and Jae Crowder, instead wanting to match Plumlee against Tristan Thompson in a more ideal matchup for Bud.
“It (starting Cavanaugh) didn’t have anything to do with our G-League team being here,” said Bud postgame. “With the Love and Crowder frontcourt... We knew Thompson was going to play so we thought maybe we’d play Plumlee against Thompson. Tyler got to start in front of his old teammates, the guys he went to training camp with. We’re a huge believer in the G-League and developing our guys, so it was kind of a cool story.”
Though Cavanaugh himself was disappointed to lose — feeling he had somewhat let his side down defensively — he was happy to receive an opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the league.
“They kinda took it to us tonight,” said Cavanaugh postgame. “They’re a really good team. We gave them too many open looks at times and struggled with what the coaches wanted us to do (defensively), me especially. But it was a great opportunity to compete against one of the best teams in the East.”
Cavanaugh had a couple of good hustle plays, including this one, fighting for the offensive rebound and creating an opportunity:
“Got to compete,” said Cavanaugh. “(I) pride myself on that, just continuing to play until the final horn sounds. That’s something I’ve been taught my whole life. Just trying to bring that to the team, bring energy and contribute any way I can, that’s my goal.”
This story is going to get better yet, as Cavanaugh will almost certainly be converted from a two-way contract to a full NBA contract very soon, the Hawks having waived Nicolas Brussino to create the open roster spot needed to do so.
A career-night for Taurean Prince and a strong night for Baze
One of a few bright spots last night was the play of Taurean Prince, who set a new career-high with 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting while also adding seven rebounds and six assists.
Taurean found success driving to the rim, and his aggressiveness in doing so was encouraging to see. Prince also took six of the Hawks’ 13 free throws.
Kent Bazemore also had a strong game — 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists, including this beauty of a dime:
You can also add two steals and two blocks to Baze’s line too.
These two performances were bright spots for Bud.
“Those are the positives,” said Bud. “Taurean and the way he played, efficient from the field, Baze shooting and making threes. ... Baze and Taurean had pretty good games.”
For as much as Bazemore is struggling from the field (shooting 39.9% from the field), Baze is shooting 38% from three this season. Prince, meanwhile, is shooting 42% from three.
The Hawks (6-21) head home to Atlanta ahead of Thursday’s home tilt against the Detroit Pistons, who have now lost seven in a row. The Hawks are also unveiling their ‘City’ jerseys by Nike at halftime too, so that’s exciting.
**Post-game quotes via FOX Sports Southeast unless otherwise noted**