It was a bad night for the Hawks, who not only lost the opener of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cavaliers in Atlanta, but saw one of their most vital players, DeMarre Carroll, go down with a knee injury. Carroll is scheduled to have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, but it did not look good in real time. Carroll has been tremendous for the Hawks in the playoffs, emerging as their most consistent offensive force as well as the guy they assign to the opponent's best wing scorer.
Which in this series means he was slated to guard LeBron James. James finished with 31, though it took him 26 shots to get there. Still, he was a force for the Cavs as he always is, and last night he got huge help from a red hot J.R. Smith, who made 8-12 three pointers en route to 28 points. Smith drove the decisive run early in the 4th quarter that got the Cavs their biggest lead, and while the Hawks made a spirited comeback following Carroll's injury, they were unable to get closer than 4 points before James finished them off with a monstrous dunk.
Two decisive areas in the game were rebounding and three point shooting. The Cavs dominated the glass, especially early in the game, with offensive rebounds by Tristan Thompson keeping them close as the Hawks were hot early. They wound up with a 49-37 board advantage, including +5 on the offensive glass. The Hawks also had a terrible night shooting threes, usually a strength for them, as they went 4-23 from behind the arc while the Cavs, behind Smith, went 10-26. During the regular season, the Hawks were the 2nd best 3 point shooting team in the league, at 38%, but have found things tougher going in the playoffs.
They will need to find their stroke if they want to even up the series tomorrow night. Meanwhile, game two in the West is tonight at 8:00 pm CDT. The Rockets competed well against the Warriors in game one, but came up short. They get another chance in Oakland tonight.
Flip Saunders made the media rounds yesterday in the wake of the Wolves' win in the Draft Lottery on Tuesday. He didn't really tip his hand, but made it reasonably clear that the two big men--Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, are the players in real consideration for the pick.
I plan to do a much deeper dive into this debate next week, but my current position is that I prefer Towns for his defensive acumen and his diversity of skills, but I also think Okafor is an excellent prospect in his own right.
For an argument in favor of Okafor, go read our friends over at Punch-Drunk Wolves, who have their usual great take.
Finally, the All-NBA teams came out:
What do you think?
Finally, here's a song. No idea why we haven't made it our theme song yet, and it should be played every night at Target Center:
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