After a very weird for Thursday for both teams (for different reasons), the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers squared off on Friday evening at Philips Arena. For 48 minutes, there was an entertaining, albeit defensively challenged, product on the floor and the final result was a 123-107 loss for the Hawks to fall to 17-39 on the season.
As expected (at least to some degree), the first half included very little defense on either side. Dennis Schröder led the way for Atlanta prior to halftime with 19 points, including 12 in the first seven minutes, and the Cavs offered very little resistance to the young point guard.
Cleveland, though, responded with 63 percent shooting and a 128 offensive rating in the first quarter and the visitors followed that up with six straight points to open the second frame. That gave the Cavs a ten-point lead but the Hawks would then awaken to the tune of an 18-6 run (headlined by back-to-back threes from Isaiah Taylor) and that installed Atlanta with a short-lived lead.
In fact, Atlanta’s three-point shooting was crucial in keeping the team afloat early, knocking down eight shots from long range within the first 18 minutes of action. Still, the Cavs finished strong to take a 61-56 lead into the break and, if nothing else, the Hawks could be pleased with their offensive showing despite real struggles on the other end.
Those issues would continue in the second half and it was old friend Kyle Korver that drove the point home. Obviously, LeBron James was tremendous throughout the evening (finishing with 22 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds) but Korver burst into the flames late in the third quarter and, frankly, sealed Atlanta’s fate.
The veteran marksman converted four (yes, four) threes in the final minutes of the third period and, after back-to-back dunks from Jeff Green to open the fourth quarter, the Cavs finished an 18-2 run that effectively ended the game. The Hawks trailed by 19 points (101-82) at that point and Atlanta never seriously threatened again. All told, Korver finished with 30 points on 9 of 16 shooting with 7 of 13 from three and it was a throwback effort to be sure.
On the Hawks side, there were some positive offensive trends, including strong showings from Schröder and Isaiah Taylor. Still, it wasn’t enough to overcome porous defense and, even against a talented opponent, there is plenty to worry about on that end.
The Hawks are back in action on Sunday afternoon as Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons come to Philips Arena for a matinee. Stay tuned.