Posted by lethalweapon3 in lethalweapon3's Pre-Game Preview Blog, 26 May 2015 - · 257 views
“Look at me... Look at me... I’m the coach now.”
If anyone, Tyronn Lue certainly recognizes the feeling anytime he’s getting stepped over. After doing his part as a lead guard to help the Atlanta Hawks crawl out from the bottom of the NBA barrel, during his fourth season with the Hawks, playoff-contending Atlanta decided to go in a different direction – specifically, sending T-Lue plus flotsam in a different direction at mid-season.
The 2008 trade to acquire a more accomplished Mike Bibby touched off the start of eight consecutive playoff appearances for the Atlanta Hawks, leaving the discarded Lue behind as a faint memory from an eight-season playoff drought. Playoff run #8, the most successful of the bunch, could conclude tonight for Atlanta at Quicken Loans Arena, the site for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals (8:30 PM Eastern, TNT, 92.9 FM in ATL). And Tyronn Lue will have much more than a frontcourt seat.
While Bibby has been spending his post-career time getting booted out of high school games, Lue worked his way up the NBA coaching ranks, and is now the lead assistant for David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers. A future head coaching prospect, T-Lue’s hoping the next “step” will be the NBA Finals, Cleveland’s first since 2007. And there is no better way for Lue to savor that accomplishment than to witness a sweep of the Hawks tonight.
Just a couple seats away from T-Lue will be Larry Drew. As head coach, LD took the Hawks on three postseason voyages, and began the arduous departure from iso-heavy, low-BBIQ hoops that circumscribed the earlier part of Atlanta’s modern playoff era. However, with the Hawks mired in the middle, Drew rarely received credit for the effort to incorporate more motion, fullcourt running and passing into the Hawks’ gameplans.
Accolades didn’t generally come to Atlanta until after Drew’s contract expired, the coach subject to an amicable, albeit somewhat involuntary, parting of ways as Hawks GM Danny Ferry cleared the way for his Spurs bud, Mike Budenholzer. Coach Bud would take the table LD set and created a cornucopia worthy of an NBA Coach of the Year Award. Drew would come to find his ouster from Atlanta was only the second-biggest screwjob of his coaching career.
Larry would find himself a victim of The Buddy System once again last summer, unable to finish the job he started in last-place Milwaukee as its new owners bucked him to clear a pathway for Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd. Drew has certainly landed on his feet, though, and now sits one win away from the NBA Finals. It’s a life of runs, and as far as LD’s concerned, you can bet there’s a sense of urgency to run off his former employer tonight.
Having successfully derailed the best-laid plans of Kyle Korver and Al Horford in the last two contests, the Cavs’ whipping boy-turned-hero Matthew Dellavedova has 18,500 screaming reasons not to want to experience Game 5 in Atlanta. He’ll bulldoze whoever he has to in order to steamroll any notion of a Hawks revival tonight.
His NBA home city awash in acute societal strife, LeBron James was willing to do what it took to turn the attention away from matters of justice and give Cleveland something worth cheering about. And that he did on Sunday… barely. James had a career-defining performance in Game 3. Yet once he got the ball rolling after a 0-for-10 shooting start, his Cavs needed every last drop of greatness he could muster just to eke past a Hawks team suddenly missing both Korver and Horford, in overtime.
James understands that this Atlanta team, while down 3-0, is not one to be trifled with. He’ll do all he can as a scorer, a rebounder, a passer, and a defender, to make sure the conference title celebration begins tonight, and not two, four, or six days from now. The Cavs have been missing another star in Kyrie Irving for the past two games as well and, at the risk of looking ahead, the more time they get to recuperate and strategize for a tough Western Conference opponent, the better.
All of the aforementioned members of the Cavs have good reason to secure the series-clinching victory, specifically tonight. Just because it’s what Cleveland wants, though, doesn’t mean Atlanta is obligated to hand it to them.
Never mind that it might hurt too much to do it, but DeMarre Carroll surely isn’t willing to take a knee. Everyone had lapses during the 114-111 OT loss on Sunday, and DMC (4-for-12 FGs in Game 3) is eager to make amends for the occasional missed floater and layup that could have made the difference in steering the series mojo back in Atlanta’s favor.
JYD’s on-floor defensive leadership will be vital as the Hawks seek not only to render LeBron’s NBA 2K15 cheat-code performance negligible once again, but to close out on perimeter shooters. He, Kent Bazemore and the Hawks’ big men must also box out the cherry-picking Cavalier big men and eliminate the prospect of tip-outs from missed Cav field goal attempts. Perhaps James’ most consequential boxscore stat in Game 3 were eight offensive rebounds, giving his team a decisive edge in second-chance points that Carroll and the Hawks must work together to wipe out.
Like Carroll, Paul Millsap is about to get some very nice financial offers this summer. And, like Carroll, he doesn’t care one whit about that. Both forwards feel what they have to offer is integral to the continued rise of the Hawks, whether it’s as a starter or in a handsomely-paid bench role down the line.
The two-time All-Star power forward can whet the appetites of GMs everywhere all the more with a strong finish to this year’s playoff run, one that would allow people to forget that he’s shot a paltry 42.7 2FG% over the course of the last two postseasons. Aside from the need for better defensive rebounding and finishing in the clutch, Millsap’s ability, along with Jeff Teague’s (combined 20-for-20 FTs in Game 3) to draw trips to the free throw line and shoot them accurately will continue to be important in Game 4.
Whether passing, defending, driving, or shooting, Teague (30 points, 7 assists, zero TOs in Game 3) has to make winning plays, unlike the heave at the close of regulation in Game 3 that took the Cavs off the hook. Shelvin Mack (3-for-7 3FGs) bedeviled the Cavs with the occasional three-point shot in Game 3, helping his teammates make up for the loss of Korver on offense. But Mack’s defensive shortcomings set the floor for the play of Dennis Schröder (3.5 minutes of Game 3 action) tonight.
The Hawks will need point guards that remain active, assertive, and productive all over the floor. Atlanta cannot look up at the end of the night to find itself out-assisted by a Kyrie-less Cavs team for the fourth-straight game and expect to win the contest as well.
Mike Scott’s rebounding off the bench was laudable, if not much else. For Scott to have a critical role in Game 4, he must defend well and be ready to make good things happen whenever the ball comes his way. If he’s listless for any stretches, he’ll return to the pine in favor of Mike Muscala. With backs to the wall, the bench players (Pero Antić included) will get a short hook after any lapses, so long as the starters stay out of foul trouble.
Having cast aside the four-decades-plus Hawks Hex, the new “Hawks Have Never” mantra involves never having won a game in the Eastern Conference Finals. With Horford back and his head screwed back on straight following a solid 7-for-10 shooting start to Game 3, the Hawks have every reason to believe they can push this series back to Atlanta for Game 5, delaying Cleveland’s gratification at least a tad bit longer.
Let’s Go Hawks!