Saturday night the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Atlanta Hawks for the first time since they swept them in four games during the Eastern Conference Finals last season en route to the NBA Finals. The Hawks came into Saturday nights game with a record of 9-5 and current holder of 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.
Very similar to last seasons’ Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks posed no problem to the Cavaliers as the Cavs won 109-97 with four key rotation players missing (Mo Williams, Timofey Mozgov, Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert). The win improves the Cavs home record to 7-0 and 10-3 overall on the season. The Cavaliers were lead by LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson, who started in place of injured center Timofey Mozgov.
The frontline for the Cavs dominated the Atlanta Hawks frontline as LeBron and Love notched double-doubles and Thompson was one point shy of doing so. Love lead the Cavs in scoring as he had 25 with 11 rebounds while shooting 9-15 from the field. LeBron added 19 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists on 8-15 shooting, while Thompson had 9 points, 16 rebounds and a season high 5 assists. Paul Millsap lead the Hawks in scoring with 14 and 11 rebounds, and three-point specialist Kyle Korver contributed with 14 points on 4-10 shooting.
This was a big win for the Cavaliers as the Hawks, along with the Bulls, who the Cavs played on opening night, are the best team the Cavs have played this season. The big statement made Saturday night by the Cavs was how easy of a win it was, considering that four key rotation players did not play. The mantra this season has been “next man up” for the Cavs and so far that next guy has stepped up and played well.
This early season experience for some players will bode well for the Cavaliers when it comes to playoff time. Certain guys may have to step up during the playoffs, and they’ll be confident to do so because of the playing time they are getting early in the season. The early season injuries may actually be a blessing in disguise for this reason.
Saturday nights’ game truly showed just how deep the Cleveland Cavaliers are. You can take four of the top eight rotation players out on any team in the league and they would probably struggle mightily, which is extremely impressive on the Cavaliers part, considering they are still winning games with the group they’re putting out on the court.
Threes were falling early for the Cavs, especially for JR Smith, who started the game off shooting 3-6 from the three-point line, and finished with 15 points. On the night the Cavaliers shot 11-29 (38%) from three. Smith also had a great defensive game, and was even praised by Coach David Blatt during the post game press conference for his defense on Kyle Korver all game long.
Another good day passing for the Cavaliers lead to 27 assists on the night. They were able to get open looks all night long because of unselfish play and great ball movement. As the season goes on it’s becoming noticeable how well the players are playing together and developing chemistry with each other. Along with the excellent ball movement, the Cavaliers defense was impressive, as they won the rebounding battle 51-38.
Kevin Love had a good night with his eighth double-double of the season Saturday night. Love was involved in the offense early and often, as he got the ball in the post multiple times and converted on most of those opportunities. This is one thing that we didn’t see much of last season as Love strayed from the post and spent most of his time hovering around the three-point line.
It’s good to see the Cavaliers take advantage of Love’s skill set and feed him the ball in places where he will be successful and make plays, instead just using him as a spot up three-point shooter like last year.
Matthew Dellavedova had another good night starting in place of Mo Williams who missed his second straight game with a sore ankle. Dellavedova has continued to play well this season and has improved tremendously since last season.
Last seasons’ playoff run has noticeably given him the confidence to believe he can play against anyone. His offensive skill set has improved drastically, as he has shown he can hit open shots, take it to the basket and score, and even occasionally find his best friend Tristan Thompson on the beloved lob passes that the two exchange quite often.
Timofey Mozgov will miss about two more weeks with his shoulder injury, so Anderson Varejao will continue to see those minutes until he returns to action. Mo Williams is day-to-day and may return back to the lineup Monday as the Cavs take on the Orlando Magic at home at 7pm.
Latest posts by Marko Janjetovic (see all)
- 20 Games In: Cavs Are 13-7 and Struggling - December 5, 2015
- Cavaliers Fly Past The Hawks With Another Home Win: Game Recap - November 21, 2015
- Cavaliers Stay Perfect At Home With Win Over Bucks: Game Recap - November 19, 2015