The Hawks were swept by the Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA playoffs in part because of Cleveland’s record-setting 3-point shooting.
The Cavaliers’ long-range shooting has cooled considerably and they now find themselves in a battle with the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. The series is tied 2-2 after the Raptors won Monday night.
I decided to look at the numbers since it has become obvious that the shots the Cavaliers made against the Hawks have not fallen against the Raptors. Many of the attempts against both teams were wide open. The difference with the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, in particular, has been dramatic.
Here is what the3-point shooting numbers showed:
Game 1 - Cavs: 15 of 31; Love: 3 of 9
Game 2 - Cavs: 25 of 45; Love: 3 of 4
Game 3 - Cavs: 21 of 39; Love: 5 of 12
Game 4 - Cavs: 16 of 37; Love: 8 of 15
Totals - Cavs: 77 of 152 (.507); Love: 19 of 40 (.475)
Game 1 - Cavs: 7 of 20; Love: 2 of 4
Game 2 - Cavs: 7 of 21; Love: 1 of 2
Game 3 - Cavs: 14 of 41; Love: 1 of 4
Game 4 - Cavs: 13 of 41; Love: 2 of 7
Totals - Cavs: 41 of 123 (.333); Love: 6 of 17 (.353)
The Hawks’ defensive strategy against the Cavaliers was to protect the paint first and foremost, especially against the driving ability of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. If they were going to lose it was going to be because of the 3-point shots by others. In the end, it was J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and Love who did in the Hawks from long-range. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said you have to pick your poison against the Cavaliers. He defended the strategy following the season.
“Our players executed everything we asked of them, I would say at a very high level,” Budenholzer said of the Hawks’ defensive game plan following the Game 4 loss on May 8.
The Raptors came into the series against the Cavaliers determined not to allow the 3-point shot. The Cavaliers, James in particular, drove to the basket time and again and they won Games 1 and 2 going away. The Raptors changed their strategy at home to defend the paint and the Cavaliers stopped making 3-point shots. The Raptors even switched center Bismack Biyombo on to James when he got inside – something the Hawks tried to do with Paul Millsap and Al Horford.
I’m not saying the Hawks would have won the series had the Cavaliers not shot lights-out from 3-point range. However, it certainly would have been more interesting, especially Games 1, 3 and 4. Just something to think about.