The Eastern Conference Finals was supposed to be competitive. The Atlanta Hawks focused on the team concept versus the star power of the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James dominated the series as the Cavs swept the Hawks and proved that star power is still needed in the NBA.
We compared this Hawks team to the San Antonio Spurs. They didn’t have one dominate star, they moved the ball, played solid defense and knocked down three pointers. In the regular season they shot 38% from downtown while finishing second in assists per game at 25.7. They shocked us all by winning 60 games and had a 19 game winning streak.
When the playoffs started they struggled against the Nets and Wizards but prevailed. The Nets don’t have a star player and the Wizards John Wall got banged up and missed some games before returning to the series. It wasn’t always pretty but the Hawks made enough shots to reach the Conference Finals for the first time in team history.
A matchup with the Cavaliers was supposed to be interesting. The Hawks beat the Cavaliers 3 out of 4 times in the regular season. They were the Spurs of the East and the Spurs handled LeBron in the Finals last season. The team beat the individual and people expected the same thing this time around. What people seem to overlook is that the Spurs have stars. The Spurs have players they can go too in crunch time. Tim Duncan is an all-time great, Tony Parker is one of the best point guards in the league and Kawhi Leonard is one of the best small forwards in the league. So now the Spurs don’t have a flashy superstar but they have stars.
The Hawks don’t have a player that is among the league’s best at any position. They don’t have a go to player in crunch time. It’s not their fault and they still won 60 games in the regular season so it can work.
Well we know the Cavaliers swept the Hawks but if you didn’t watch the game you didn’t see the importance of having a star. The Hawks tried to play one on one many times. They failed to move the ball constantly to find open shooters. They only averaged 19 apg while the Cavs averaged 21. Remember in the regular season the Hawks shot a lot of three pointers at a high percentage (38%). In the playoffs they shot 31% but against the Cavs they shot 23%.
Atlanta has a very good starting five but during stretches of the Conference Finals each one of them disappeared. They didn’t have anyone to step up and make big plays.
On the other side we watched LeBron James as he averaged 30.3 ppg, 11 rpg and 9.3 apg. He is the only player to average those numbers in a postseason series. He had the “Superstar” game in game 3 when he had a stat line that had never been seen before; 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.
Team basketball works and it is great to watch but stars are still needed. The real Spurs have stars, they don’t act like most stars but they are still stars. The Hawks are good but still need a star to put them over the top.