Cavaliers steal Game 1 in Atlanta
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
Does anybody have a fire extinguisher? J.R. Smith was on fire on Wednesday night, and he couldn't seem to find a way to cool off. His ridiculous shooting display led the Cavaliers to a 97-89 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Atlanta.
Smith was absolutely brilliant, and for the second consecutive night, NBA fans as a whole were collectively laughing at the New York Knicks. I guess the saying is true; one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Kenny Smith labeled LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as the underdogs before the game tipped off. Smith labeled the Hawks as the favorite in the series, but after the game wrapped up, he changed his tone and eventually said the Hawks are "easy to defend."
Smith scored 11 points on his first four shots off the bench and heated up again late in the third quarter, hitting one deep contested jumper after another to finish with 28 points. He scored 17 points on five triples during the Cavaliers' 22-4 run at the end of the third quarter. At points it appeared as if Smith was launching fireballs.
"When he gets hot, he gets smoking hot," said Blatt, whose team went from mediocrity at time the Cavaliers acquired Smith and Shumpert from the Knicks to the powerhouse of the Eastern Conference. "He was terrific."
With his eighth and final basket from beyond the arc, early in the fourth quarter, he posted a new Cavaliers single-game postseason record. Smith connected on eight of the 12 shots he attempted from downtown.
Besides Smith taking over the game in the second half, LeBron James led the way for the Cavs on this night. James finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. He passed Michael Jordan for the most 30 points, five rebounds, and five assists performances in NBA playoff history with 52.
Tristan Thompson was huge for the Cavs yet again. Thompson made an immediate impact on this game. He grabbed three offensive rebounds in the first few minutes of action. Thompson finished with 14 points, and 10 rebounds.
Timofey Mozgov chipped in 10 points, while grabbing 11 rebounds. Kyrie Irving finished with 10 points, three rebounds, and six assists after re-aggravating his injury. The Cavs need to consider resting Irving for a game or two in this series because they'll need him at full strength if the Cavs plan on hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The key for the rest of this series and the rest of the playoffs for the Cavs is staying healthy. They cannot afford another injury at this point of the season with Love out and Irving hobbled.
With the unfortunate injury to DeMarre Carroll, the Cavaliers need to heavily consider resting Irving. Carroll's left knee gave out on him when driving to the basket with four minutes remaining in the game.
Judging by his reaction, the injury seemed pretty serious. Let's hope for the best for Carroll, a journeyman who's played on five different teams in the last six years. You never want to see anyone get seriously injured like that, and that's why we saw James walk over to Carroll after the injury and voice his concern.
Nine down, seven more to go for Cavs nation. I expect James' Cavaliers to come out on Friday night and put their foot on the Hawks throat. If the Hawks were to lose both games at home, that will make the Cavs odds of a sweep increase exponentially.
Taylor Rosen is a junior at Kent State University. He spent time with The Stater covering Kent State football and basketball. Taylor is from Cleveland, and has Cleveland sports under a microscope. Follow him on Twitter: @T_Rosen11