ATLANTA — LeBron James resolutely refused to duplicate the mistake he made at the end of the first game of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals, where he tried to sit on a big lead and nearly squandered it.
“When we had a big lead (in Game 1), we started to play the clock,” James admitted, implying that he was trying to run out the clock and play not too lose, which nearly backfired. “That was my fault. This time we wanted to keep our feet on the pedal.”
In game 2, when the Cavs again got a big lead, King James implored his comrades to keep their collective foot on the Hawks necks in a blowout win that pushes the Atlanta Hawks record-breaking season to the brink of an embarrassing end.
James eviscerated the Hawks defense while barely missing a triple-double with an authoritative 30-point, 11-assist, 9-rebound performance that powered the Cavs to a 94-82 win that was not early as close as the final score indicated. The Cavs were up by 20 points by the end of the 3rd quarter and coasted the rest of the way in.
For the third game in a row, a reserve or lesser-renowned supporting cast member helped LeBron bash their opponent in the place of ailing assassin Kyrie Irving. In the close-out blowout of the Chicago Bulls in the semifinal series, it was backup point guard Dellevadova who gutted the Bulls with 19 points, mostly on three-pointers from feeds from James. In game one against the Hawks, back up shooting guard J.R. Smith set a team record with eight 3-pointers en route to 28 points as the Cavs won the opening game. And last night, starting shooting guard Iman Shumpert pitched in 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, also mostly on 3-pointers, as the Cavs cruised to their third-straight convincing win.
The loss was doubly troubling for the Hawks, who squandered any semblance of home-court advantage after earning the No. 1 seed by winning a team-record 60 games, something that not even Dominique Wilkins was able to do during his heyday in the 1980s.
This is the first time the current incarnation of the Hawks franchise has ever journeyed as far as the conference finals.
The next two games will be played in Cleveland with the Cavs up 2-games-to-0. Some sports pundits, such as the flamboyant Stephen A. Smith, are already predicting a Cavs sweep that would propel the franchise back to the NBA Finals for the only the second time in the team’s long and sad history.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, their history is not much better than their current conquerors.