Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was not as close as the score suggests. Heading into game 2 both teams has injury concerns. Atlanta has to do a better job of moving the ball while the Cavaliers cannot fall in love with isolation basketball when they get a lead.
We all seen DeMarre Carroll go down in game 1 and expected the worse. Luckily there was no structural damage to his left knee and he is considered day-to-day. We don’t know if Carroll will play in game 2. Before leaving the game he only scored five points and did a decent job on LeBron James. He is Atlanta’s best perimeter defender and he is the number one defender for LeBron James. Without Carroll the Hawks will try to throw Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap at LeBron.
On the other side Kyrie Irving aggravated his knee in the 3rd quarter of game 1. He only played 27 minutes while scoring 10 points on 4-10 shooting. He did mention to dish out six assists but he was unable to move on the defensive end. Jeff Teague was able to drive by Irving multiple times in the first half.
Irving said, “The most frustrating point is seeing holes in the defense that I’m used to attacking.” “I tried to make one move and accelerated and then stopped and I passed it to Mozzy [Timofey Mozgov].” Kyrie Irving skipped shootaround to get tests on left knee and he remains questionable for game 2.
In the regular season the Hawks were known to move the ball around and knock down three pointers. In game 1 the Cavaliers had more assists than the Hawks and they held the Hawks to 4-23 shooting from 3 point range. Kyle Korver was 2-4 while Jeff Teague was 1-6. The Cavaliers did a good job of staying close to Korver and forcing him to put the ball on the ground.
Cleveland got a huge boost from J.R. Smith who knocked down 8 three pointers alone. A lot of those were contested shots. J.R. is shooting a better percentage when guarded but the Cavaliers cannot fall in love with contested three pointers. J.R. can get hot again but it would be better for the Cavaliers if most of his shots came off a catch and shoot.
Atlanta has to do a better job of competing on the boards. Cleveland won the rebound battle 49-37. The Cavs had seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter and finished with 12 overall. Atlanta had seven offensive rebounds for the entire game. Al Horford and Paul Millsap have to do a better job against Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. The Cavs bigs won the rebound battle 22-14 including nine offensive rebounds which was more than the Hawks team.
Finally the Cavaliers cannot fall in love with isolation basketball. They went up 16 points and just started holding the ball. They were playing not to lose instead of finishing the Hawks off. LeBron held the ball for multiple possessions and it usually led to a terrible shot or a turnover. The Hawks were able to get back into the game because the Cavs stopped running their offense. LeBron James threw down a dunk to put the game away with 37 seconds left but until then the Cavaliers last field goal was a LeBron jumper with 7:01 left in the game. Cleveland cannot afford to do that again if they want to win game 2.