Game 1: Cavs at Hawks
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1-0) 97, ATLANTA HAWKS (0-1) 89
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
1. The injury to keep your eye on is Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll's sprained left knee. He'll have an MRI tomorrow. Without him, the Hawks are dead meat. They don't have anyone else to guard LeBron James, other than Kent Bazemore or possibly Mike Scott. With Carroll, he'll give James a run for his money. Remember, the Hawks are already playing without Thabo Sefolosha, other top-notch defender.
2. Cavs swingman J.R. Smith was unconscious tonight. His 28-point effort came at the most opportune time. It was needed with Kyrie Irving getting injured once again and playing only 27 minutes. He had 10 points and six assists. He played those limited minutes, Coach David Blatt said, because he was banged up. The Cavs will get him ready for Game 2. He wants to perform at the highest level. Unfortunately, he's unable to at this point.
3. LeBron James also turned his right ankle. He stepped on a cameraman's foot while running down the sideline in the third quarter. As usual, he returned to throw the hammer down on the Hawks. He's indestructible.
4. Cavs center Timofey Mozgov played just 24 minutes in the game, yet recorded a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. They played small most of the game with teammate Tristan Thompson the only big on the court. Of course, Thompson was also good with 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. I was worried that Blatt's way of dealing with Hawks center Al Horford would be to sit down Mozgov. I think the Cavs should make the Hawks deal with Mozgov. They don't have anyone that size. They have just three players that are 6-11: Pero Antic, Mike Muscala and Austin Daye. None of them can guard Mozgov successfully.
5. When the Hawks play mighty-mites Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder together, it can cause problems. Schroder had an off night with six points, but Teague was outstanding with 27.
6. Thompson said his shoulder is fine, or at least I think he did. "How does it look?" he asked. He took a hard fall on it in Game 6 of the Chicago series. He's become vitally important to the Cavs with his post defense, rebounding and occasional scoring. He'll get the bulk of the minutes on Horford, I believe. Thompson is perhaps the best offensive rebounder still alive in the playoffs. That's an area where the Hawks are weak - defensive rebounding. Thompson was well aware that the team that won the rebounding battle won every game in the Chicago series. He'll do his best to continue that advantage.
7. This is Atlanta's first trip to the East finals. It's the Cavs' fifth appearance (1976, 1992, 2007 and 2009 were the other). Of course, the St. Louis Hawks won the NBA title in 1958. The Cavs have never won it all.
8. The Atlanta series wasn't expected to be as physical as the Boston and Chicago series. Tell that to the players who were injured tonight. The Hawks are more of a finesse team. They aren't one to take cheap shots, either, like another team that like clam chowder (no names, please).
9. Resident cult hero Matthew Dellavedova didn't score in 25 minutes. Still Blatt couldn't take him off the court. He does defend and play hard.
10. James (1,634) passed No. 7 Jerry West (1,622) on the NBA's all-time postseason list for field goals. He also needs four free throws made to pass No. 4 West (1,213) in playoff annals.
UP NEXT: Game 2, at Atlanta, Eastern Conference finals, Friday, May 22, 8:30 p.m.
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. DeMarre Carroll (6-8, 212)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Al Horford (6-10, 245)
SG Iman Shumpert (6-5, 220) vs. Kyle Korver (6-7, 212)
Hawks - G/F Thabo Sefolosha, F Austin Daye