Why Can’t the Hawks Beat the Cavs?
*Photo via USA Today
The Atlanta Hawks finished the regular season with a 60-22 record which was the best record in the Eastern Conference. They entered the playoffs as the number one seed and won their first two rounds of the playoffs. Now the Hawks find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time ever and they cannot seem to compete, let alone beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is no question that they are struggling against the Cavs, but to lose on their home court in Games 1 and 2 is not what anyone expected from the Hawks. The Hawks have a lot of reasons why they are struggling against the Cavs.
1) They are Playing Arguably the Best Player on the Planet.
The Hawks are clearly having a tough time guarding LeBron James. James has been able to take the Hawks to school, as James has nearly had a triple-double in every game so far in this series. James finished Game 1 with 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists and he finished Game 2 with 30 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. He has been the offensive facilitator for the Cavs, seeming to score at will and find the open man. The Hawks have not been able slow James down and that’s a big reason why they are trailing in the series.
2) Injuries are Killing the Hawks
The Hawks saw their star DeMarre Carroll exit Game 1 against the Cavs. The injury looked worse than a sprained knee. Carroll returned in Game 2 and 3, but he is clearly not 100 percent. The Hawks just saw Kyle Korver go down for the rest of the playoffs in Game 2 as well, so the Hawks are now without Carroll, Korver and Thabo Sefolosha. The absence of Korver, who can spread the floor, is a huge hit to the Hawks offense and not having Carroll at full health is also hurting the Hawks. They are playing with most of their backups in this series and they cannot keep up with the Cavs.
3) The Hawks Three-Point Shooting Percentage has Dropped
One of the Hawks biggest strengths this season has been their ability to shoot the three ball. In this series against the Cavs, that percentage has dropped significantly. The Hawks shot 38 percent this season from beyond the arc in the regular season. In the first two games against the Cavs, the Hawks only shot four of 23 in Game 1, which is a 17.4 three-point shooting percentage and in Game 2, the Hawks struggled again shooting the three ball as they went six of 26 for a shooting percentage of just 23.1 percent.
There is no question the Hawks have struggled against the Cavs. They have not helped themselves and they will tell you they are not making excuses for themselves. The Hawks know their backs are against the wall and they are in a do or die situation to make the NBA Finals. It is going to be interesting to see how the Hawks respond in the series from here moving forward.