Cleveland Cavaliers 1 - 0 Atlanta Hawks | Eastern Conference Finals
It was raining in Philips Arena during Game 1. No, there wasn’t a leak in the ceiling. And no, there wasn’t some crazy fan entertainment stunt put on by the Hawks organization. It was raining threes. The inclement weather was brought on by one man in particular. It was the man they call ‘Swish’, J.R. Smith. Smith was playing like a man possessed. With Iman Shumpert struggling to get his shot to go and Kyrie on the bench after he aggravated his left knee injury, the Cavs were in need of someone to step up and score from the guard position and propel the Cavs into a lead going into the 4th. To say J.R. "stepped up" is an understatement. ‘Swish’ was making Kyrie proud by draining buckets from distances that made it entirely fathomable that he could have been catching a couple innings of the Braves game down the road. For the seven minute period that included the final five in the 3rd and the first two of the 4th, it felt like one was watching a game of NBA2K with all of the shooting sliders up. His performance propelled the Cavs to an astounding 22-4 run. He capped off the monsoon with an alley-oop pass to Tristan Thompson that lifted the King off his throne with fervor.
J.R. Smith Rains 8 Triples
After the shooting frenzy subdued, Hawks’ small forward DeMarre Carroll went down with a knee injury. Carroll was Atlanta’s main source of defense against LeBron and was averaging 17 points coming into the game. However, after Carroll was taken to the locker room with 4:59 to go, Jeff Teague led the boys from Atlanta as they cut the Cavs' lead down to four at 91-87. Atlanta’s run was aided by the Cavs' eight possession scoring drought.
LeBron took responsibility for his part in the stagnate offense, saying in his latest UNINTERRUPTED video, “I need to play the game, not the clock.”
LeBron Scores 31 in Game 1
Ultimately, LeBron quelled Atlanta’s late-game uprising with an emphatic slam as he burst past Paul Millsap. The major reason why the Hawks were never able to sustain a comeback is mainly because of how dominant the Cavs were on the boards. The Cavs had a massive rebound advantage for the game with a 49-37 edge. Timofey Mozgov led with 11 and Thompson added 10. LeBron returned in the second to tally up 14 points on 7-9 shooting and took advantage of mismatches as the Hawks tried to bait him into his third foul by guarding him with smaller players.
LeBron's Ferocious Tomahawk Jam
There was nothing out of the ordinary from LeBron. He put in his day’s work of making numbers like his 31, 8, and 6 output look easy. It was his 52nd game with at least 30, 5, and 5 which one-upped Michael Jordan for the most all-time. This was the first time in franchise history that the Cavs won a Game 1 in the playoffs on the road. They had been 0-14. Game 2 will be at Philips Arena on Friday night.