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Eastern Conference Final Thread


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In 1st Conference Final, Atlanta Hawks to Face LeBron's Cavs
WASHINGTON — May 16, 2015, 2:56 AM ET
By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Sports Writer
AP_logo_update_20130709.gif

As far as Jeff Teague and the rest of the Atlanta Hawks are concerned, bring on LeBron.

Atlanta managed to make it to its first Eastern Conference final without the sort of transcendent, game-changing player that upcoming opponent Cleveland features with LeBron James. The Hawks are OK with that.

"Like everyone says, I guess, we don't have a superstar or whatever," Teague said. "But we come up big in big moments every night."

The Hawks, seeded No. 1 in the East, set up a matchup against James and the Cavaliers that will start Wednesday night in Atlanta by eliminating the Washington Wizards in six games in the second round.

Atlanta earned itself time to rest and prepare by barely finishing off Washington on Friday night, emerging with a 94-91 series-clinching victory in Game 6 when Paul Pierce's apparent tying 3-pointer was ruled to have been released after the clock expired.

"When I signed here a couple years ago, this was the hope — that we would be competing for championships. We were going to bring in the right pieces and bring in the right people and bring in character guys. We were going to compete at the highest levels. This was our expectation," Atlanta's Kyle Korver said. "I think it happened a little quicker than maybe we thought it might."

It's the Hawks' first trip to a conference final since the NBA realigned into conferences in 1970-71. The Hawks have won two playoff series in a single postseason for the first time since moving to Atlanta for the 1968-69 season.

The Hawks did reach the Western Division finals in 1969 and 1970, their first two years in Atlanta, losing both times to the Lakers. Back then, there were two divisions, eight teams made the playoffs, and there were only three rounds, including the NBA Finals.

"We broke through whatever wall or 'curse,' whatever everyone was talking about: 'Can't get past the second round,'" Korver said. "We'll just keep on trying to get better."

With Mike Budenholzer earning NBA coach of the year honors, the Hawks finished a franchise-best 60-22, put together a 19-game winning streak and collected their first division title in 21 years.

During the regular season, the Hawks went 3-1 against everyone's preseason favorite, the Cavaliers, losing the first matchup before taking three in a row.

"We know what we want to do against them," said Paul Millsap, who scored 20 points Friday. "It's about us getting out there and showing it. We've got home-court advantage. Just try to take advantage of that."

In the most recent game between the teams, Atlanta won 106-97 on March 6, limiting James to 18 points and forcing him into nine turnovers.

"Obviously it all starts with LeBron," Korver said. "A lot of the comments people were making ... is that he just makes everyone better, makes everyone believe in themselves."

The Cavaliers also have point guard Kyrie Irving, but they're without injured forward Kevin Love.

The Hawks, meanwhile, are a versatile, deep team.

"That's what we're about. We're about playing our style of basketball, whether it's preseason, regular season, postseason. We're going to continue to play our style," Millsap said. "We know who we are. We're not going to let everybody else tell us what we're not."

They had six players who averaged at least 10 points during the regular season — and those same half-dozen players have been in double figures in the postseason, too.

"If we just keep playing team basketball and don't depend on one guy every night to lead us, we'll be OK," said DeMarre Carroll, who led Atlanta with 25 points in Game 6 against Washington, including a pair of layups off passes from Teague in the final minute. "My uncle always told me this saying: If we worry about what we have to do, they ain't going to be able to do what they want to do. So we're really going to try to focus on what we have to do and play Hawks basketball."

Make sense. After all, what they're doing is working so far.

———

Let's get it HAWKS!!!!!

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"If we just keep playing team basketball and don't depend on one guy every night to lead us, we'll be OK,"

This is the complete opposite of what basketball pundits and modern basketball fans want us to believe, that you HAVE to have that one person to depend on every night. So when they criticize the Hawks about not having that go-to guy, at some point they have to stop and think that maybe this is by design. That all it really comes down to is player execution, and if everyone performs their role as they're supposed to, the job will get done. Overachieving is definitely a plus, but as long as it doesn't lose sight of the goal which is getting the W. Scoring under 20 points doesn't mean a player didn't have a good game.

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"If we just keep playing team basketball and don't depend on one guy every night to lead us, we'll be OK,"

This is the complete opposite of what basketball pundits and modern basketball fans want us to believe, that you HAVE to have that one person to depend on every night. So when they criticize the Hawks about not having that go-to guy, at some point they have to stop and think that maybe this is by design. That all it really comes down to is player execution, and if everyone performs their role as they're supposed to, the job will get done. Overachieving is definitely a plus, but as long as it doesn't lose sight of the goal which is getting the W. Scoring under 20 points doesn't mean a player didn't have a good game.

FS_6PM_NBA_051615_Cavs-Hawks_different_s

Look at that rolleyes.gif

Perfect pundit team

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"If we just keep playing team basketball and don't depend on one guy every night to lead us, we'll be OK,"

This is the complete opposite of what basketball pundits and modern basketball fans want us to believe, that you HAVE to have that one person to depend on every night. So when they criticize the Hawks about not having that go-to guy, at some point they have to stop and think that maybe this is by design. That all it really comes down to is player execution, and if everyone performs their role as they're supposed to, the job will get done. Overachieving is definitely a plus, but as long as it doesn't lose sight of the goal which is getting the W. Scoring under 20 points doesn't mean a player didn't have a good game.

They don't want that simply put cause Isolation ball makes them able to "Market" Their stars.

That's the sad part about the state of the NBA I really hope Hawks win because this ******** of a farce may come to an end. Friend of mine said it best if Hawks win then that style of play may take hold onto other teams we may see the NBA come back to reality etc.

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"If we just keep playing team basketball and don't depend on one guy every night to lead us, we'll be OK,"

This is the complete opposite of what basketball pundits and modern basketball fans want us to believe, that you HAVE to have that one person to depend on every night. So when they criticize the Hawks about not having that go-to guy, at some point they have to stop and think that maybe this is by design. That all it really comes down to is player execution, and if everyone performs their role as they're supposed to, the job will get done. Overachieving is definitely a plus, but as long as it doesn't lose sight of the goal which is getting the W. Scoring under 20 points doesn't mean a player didn't have a good game.

Great post JN12!
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They don't want that simply put cause Isolation ball makes them able to "Market" Their stars.

That's the sad part about the state of the NBA I really hope Hawks win because this ******** of a farce may come to an end. Friend of mine said it best if Hawks win then that style of play may take hold onto other teams we may see the NBA come back to reality etc.

your friend must not understand the history of the NBA. It has ALWAYS been about star players. That's reality
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I'm really hoping we can pull off a performance similiar to the Spurs in the finals last year...we don't have their talent, but **** if we move the ball with the excellency they did it doesn't even matter, wide open shots are wide open shots. That was honestly the best fundamental basketball I've ever seen played.

That finals was a great example of team ball beating down iso ball.

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Cavaliers coach David Blatt discusses Kyrie Irving's knee and foot issues that may keep him from playing in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Kyrie Irving's status for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday remains up in the air, as the All-Star point guard continues to deal with tendinitis in his left knee and a strained right foot.

Irving sat out the Cleveland Cavaliers' practice Saturday, a day after visiting with Cavs team doctors for re-evaluation on his left knee, which he aggravated in the second quarter of Cleveland's 94-73 closeout victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

"He's going through a lot of treatment, and we're monitoring and just hoping that he progresses from here until game time," Cavs coach David Blatt said Saturday.

After the Bulls game, Irving was optimistic he would be ready for the start of the next series, but Blatt could not say with certainty that Irving would be in the lineup come Game 1.

"For sure, no," Blatt said. "But we hope so."

Fortunately for Cleveland, it will have five full days off between the second round and the conference finals. It's a break that LeBron James said his team can certainly use.

"It goes without saying that we're banged up right now," James said Saturday. "One of our best players [Kevin Love] is out for the season. Our All-Star point guard has been banged up since Game 2 of the Boston series. You see a guy like Tristan [Thompson], a guy who hasn't missed a game in 19 years, probably since he's been born, falls on his shoulder like that, you kind of get a little scared about it. Then myself, I have my nicks and bruises throughout the season and also in the postseason. Then you have Shump [iman Shumpert], who has a partially banged-up groin that he's playing with."

Thompson was able to practice with his bruised left shoulder Saturday, as was Shumpert. James said he used Friday to get away from the stress of the playoffs and eased back into basketball Saturday with the plan to fully immerse himself in Hawks preparation starting Sunday.

"I'll lock in tomorrow and be ready for the next series," James said. "Yesterday I took the day off. I did absolutely nothing but play with my kids, did whatever they wanted to do yesterday, including basketball, which I did not want to do, but they made me go out there on the court. Today I was able to get some work in, but I'm not where I would like to be.

"I'm not going to lock in this early, but I will be back to my normal form tomorrow."

Atlanta won the season series against Cleveland 3-1, but Blatt said that doesn't mean much when it comes to their upcoming series.

"Three out of four of those games we were not the same team we are right now," Blatt said. "We played obviously with different units the first two games, which were blowouts one way or the other, and one game Bron didn't play, and in the fourth game in Atlanta, we played with the full squad more or less at the end of a very tough stretch. But the Atlanta Hawks are in the Eastern Conference finals not by surprise."

Despite the Cavs' spotty record against the Hawks and litany of injuries they are going through, James said Cleveland will give itself a chance against Atlanta.

"To be able to overcome everything we're going through internally, to put it out on the floor and just say, 'No matter what we're going through, we're going to continue to play for one another and whatever happens happens,' that's all we can give," James said. "We can give our maximum effort, what we've been doing, and we'll see what happens at the end of the day."

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Hawks will look familiar to Cavaliers' James

  • ESPN Stats & Information

The Cleveland Cavaliers, who lead the NBA in using isolation on offense, will take on the Atlanta Hawks, whose hallmark is passing the ball, in the NBA Eastern Conference finals beginning Wednesday night.

Here are the top stats to know about the series.

The Cavaliers led the NBA in isolation plays per game in the regular season, and they have maintained that lead in the postseason.

Contrast Of Styles* CAVALIERS HAWKS Individual 30-pt games 36 1 Isolation plays PG 12.1 7.2 NBA rank 1st 19th *Regular season

The Hawks average barely half as many plays per game in isolation as the Cavaliers. Atlanta assisted on an NBA-high 68 percent of its made field goals in the regular season.

Although not directly tied to scoring, it's interesting that the Hawks had one player score 30 points in a game (Paul Millsap with 30 against theUtah Jazz on Nov. 12) this season.

The Hawks won the regular-season series 3-1 over the Cavaliers. Atlanta won the final three games by an average of 15.3 points.

Cleveland did better on 3-point shots (shooting 41 percent on 13 3-point shots a game), but the Hawks had the better of it inside, averaging 51 points in the paint to the Cavaliers’ 40.

James against No. 1 seeds in conference finals

LeBron James Vs. No. 1 Seed* NO. 1 SEED RESULT 2015 Hawks ? 2014 Pacers Won in 6 2011 Bulls Won in 5 2007 Pistons Won in 6 *In conference finals

This series will mark the fourth timeLeBron James has faced a No. 1 seed with an NBA Finals berth on the line. James’ teams have come out on top each of the three previous times.

James drew another tough individual defender in DeMarre Carroll. The previous round, he was guarded byJimmy Butler, and in last year’s NBA Finals, he dealt with Kawhi Leonard.

In two meetings this season, James shot 3-of-15 from the field when guarded by Carroll.

In fact, James is about to see a Hawks team that looks pretty similar to the Spurs team he faced in the NBA Finals last season.

• Unselfish team known for passing? Check.

• Coached by Gregg Popovich or a Popovich disciple? Check.

• Team known for shooting and spacing? Check.

• Physical wing defender (Leonard/Carroll)? Check.

• Skilled big man with a midrange game (Tim Duncan/Al Horford)? Check.

• All-Star point guard (Tony Parker/Jeff Teague)? Check.

Coaches short on NBA experience

David Blatt is a first-year NBA coach who made his name in Europe. Mike Budenholzer (the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year) is in his second season as a head coach after he spent the previous 16 years as an assistant under Popovich.

Blatt, like Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, has a chance to become the first rookie head coach to reach the NBA Finals since 1993, when Paul Westphal of the Suns did it.

Whereas the Cavaliers are playing for the Eastern Conference championship for the third time in nine years, the Hawks are making their first appearance in the conference or division finals since 1970.

Atlanta has not made the NBA Finals since 1961, when the franchise was based in St. Louis; the Cavaliers made it to the 2007 NBA Finals.

*Willy Mo posted a contrast of style in his post but this is just a little more info to check out in that regard.*

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Because we get to a later round doesn't mean our opponents get harder is just like the Spurs okay I have to find a good team in the first round and makes no sense to look just as good chance of winning this series in fact go Hawks. The only problem is that the Warriors will give us a supreme challenge okay we can beat the Rockets we can be at the Warriors this whole another story

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Because we get to a later round doesn't mean our opponents get harder is just like the Spurs okay I have to find a good team in the first round and makes no sense to look just as good chance of winning this series in fact go Hawks. The only problem is that the Warriors will give us a supreme challenge okay we can beat the Rockets we can be at the Warriors this whole another story

what
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Because we get to a later round doesn't mean our opponents get harder is just like the Spurs okay I have to find a good team in the first round and makes no sense to look just as good chance of winning this series in fact go Hawks. The only problem is that the Warriors will give us a supreme challenge okay we can beat the Rockets we can be at the Warriors this whole another story

Man this was hard to read, lol

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Because we get to a later round doesn't mean our opponents get harder is just like the Spurs okay I have to find a good team in the first round and makes no sense to look just as good chance of winning this series in fact go Hawks. The only problem is that the Warriors will give us a supreme challenge okay we can beat the Rockets we can be at the Warriors this whole another story

JfX8Rig.jpg

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Because we get to a later round doesn't mean our opponents get harder is just like the Spurs okay I have to find a good team in the first round and makes no sense to look just as good chance of winning this series in fact go Hawks. The only problem is that the Warriors will give us a supreme challenge okay we can beat the Rockets we can be at the Warriors this whole another story

Does this make sense to you?????
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Cavaliers-Hawks Preview

Cleveland

Cavaliers

53-29

5/20 - 8:30 PM ET

TNT

Line: ATL -1

Atlanta

Hawks

60-22

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers could only watch enviously as LeBron James made a run at another NBA title in Miami.

The Atlanta Hawks were trying to move on after a tough loss in the opening round of the playoffs.

My, how things have changed from a year ago in the Eastern Conference.

James returned to Cleveland last summer and turned the Cavaliers into instant title contenders. The Hawks pulled off a remarkable turnaround in Mike Budenholzer's second season as coach, winning 60 games to claim the top seed in the East.

On Wednesday night, the teams will meet in Game 1 of the conference final.

For James, it's championship or bust.

"I just try to lead these guys," he said. "I just want them to be great. "

James, who won two titles with the Heat and lost in the NBA Finals his other two years, came back to Cleveland -- where he started -- looking to lead Cavaliers to their first championship.

He is halfway there, with the top-seeded Hawks standing in his way.

"He's got his eyes on the prize," Atlanta's Kent Bazemore said after practice Tuesday. "We've got to go through him to get where we want to go."

During his first seven seasons, James transformed the Cavaliers into one of the league's top teams. But they made it to the Finals only one time, getting swept by San Antonio in 2007.

Now, he wants to bring a celebration to his de facto hometown.

"He has been a great leader for us," said Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving. "In terms of learning the nuances of the game and also how to win on the court and also how to carry ourselves off the court, I feel like he's been a great influence in that role."

While Cleveland's 20-win improvement was to be expected after signing the world's greatest player, no one projected the Hawks to make such a leap after going 38-44 a year ago. They set a franchise record with a 19-game winning streak and easily claimed the No. 1 seed in the East.

The playoffs have been more trying for Atlanta, which struggled to put away eighth-seeded Brooklyn in the opening round and got all it could handle from Washington in the second round, with two games decided by buzzer-beating shots and two others coming down to the closing seconds.

But the Hawks are in the conference final for the first time since the NBA switched to this format in 1970-71.

"It's going to come down to the last couple of minutes. It's going to come down to the last couple of possessions," Budenholzer said. "You need to have confidence that you can get stops. You need to have confidence that you can execute and score. Whichever team is able to do that has the best chance."

Here are some other things to watch for in the Eastern Conference final:

GUARDING LEBRON: DeMarre Carroll, known as the "Junkyard Dog," relishes the idea of being the primary defender on James. "Try to harass him, be up in him, make it uncomfortable for him," Carroll said. While James averaged nearly 24 points in three games against the Hawks during the regular season, he was held to 18 points and committed nine turnovers in their last meeting. James won't be able to relax at the defensive end, either. Carroll is Atlanta's leading scorer in the playoffs at 17.1 points a game.

MEDICAL REPORT: Cleveland's health is a bit of a concern. Kevin Love is out, of course. Irving is slowed by tendinitis in his left knee, though a five-day break since the Cavaliers finished off Chicago in the second round has eliminated any doubt about playing in Game 1. Iman Shumpert (strained groin) and Tristan Thompson (bruised shoulder) are also banged up. The Hawks are healthy except for Thabo Sefolosha, who's out for the year.

BATTLE OF THE BIGS: The Hawks face a size disadvantage against most teams, but they hope the quickness and mobility of center Al Horford and power forward Paul Millsap will work to their advantage against Thompson and Cleveland's 7-foot-1 center, Timofey Mozgov. Look for the Cavaliers to counter at times with a smaller lineup that has the 6-8 Thompson at center and James at power forward.

KORVER'S SLUMP: Atlanta's Kyle Korver is the best 3-point shooter in the NBA, but he's struggled in the playoffs against defenses that are focused on keeping him from getting open looks. He's made only 35 of 100 attempts from beyond the arc, and just one of his last 12 against the Wizards.

COACHING MATCHUP: Budenholzer has done a remarkable job molding the Hawks into a version of San Antonio East with a fast-paced, team-oriented philosophy in which no one stands out. The NBA's coach of the year may give Atlanta big edge over Cleveland's David Blatt, who tried to call a timeout his team didn't have and drew up a last-second play that was vetoed by James in the Chicago series.

---

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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