Cleveland 84, Atlanta 74

Nice sweep, but I dunno if this really counts as “being tested”. Sure, the Hawks made a few runs and even had a seven point lead going into the second quarter, but at no point was I worried about the final outcome. You could say that LeBron had an off night (and he kinda did, going 9-22) but he still ended up with 27-8-8 and converted critical 3-point play in the final minutes to seal the outcome.

LeBron was merely good, oh well. James may have only went 9-22, but he had the Hawks on their heels the entire ball game. James continued to shoot well from behind the arc, going 3-6 from downtown (but just 6-9 from the line). There were times when LeBron decided that he was going to the rim and no Hawk put up any resistance (while it’s great to see him attack, he won’t be getting those open lanes in the next round). LeBron also guarded Joe Johnson for large chunks of time and did a great job of keeping him in check.

There were some good things, but the Cavs got away with some mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that Cleveland’s defense made life hell Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby (and let Josh Smith hoist jumpers to his heart’s content) and they they still out hustled the Hawks even in the final minutes (Z and Andy pulled down late offensive boards). However, the Cavaliers shot a dismal 14-26 from the foul line and they simply gave away possessions in the final period (West gave one up on a trap, Williams committed both an illegal screen and a travel and the Cavs somehow let Atlanta’s defense force them into three shot clock violations). They held their poise down the stretch and pulled out a clinching win on the road but the Hawks were just too banged up (and tired/disinterested) to make them pay for any of the miscues.

Delonte West was fantastic. West had a terrific Game 3 (12 points, 4-8 FG, 4 boards, 2 assists) and he stepped it up a notch in Game 4. Delonte finished with 21 points (7-13 FG, 2-4 3pt), 6 assists and 4 boards. He got to the rim often (and threw down a sick dunk off a baseline drive) and he hit a big trey to hold off Atlanta’s late fourth quarter comeback. West continued his strong defensive effort, helping the Cavs hold Atlanta’s guards (Bibby, Johnson, Murray and Evans) to just 12-41 shooting (29% for those scoring at home. The Hawks were 31.5% at a team).

Varejao and Z continued their strong play. Big Z finished with 14 points (6-13 FG, 1-1 3pt, 1-4 FT), 10 boards and 2 blocks. Though Andy finished 0-3 from the floor (2 points), he did manage to grab 11 boards in his 32 minutes of court time. Both guys did great work on the offensive end, 7 of Varejao’s 11 rebounds were offensive and the same can be said for half of Z’s total. While I’m eager to move on to the next round (re: something interesting), I will say I’ll missing watching Varejao and Zaza Pachulia piss each other off. I love watching Andy complain with a straight face about Pachulia’s cheapness. Good times.

The bench had some nice moments, but they weren’t anything special. Wally Szczerbiak finished 3-4 from the field for 6 points, 2 boards and a steal (Wally actually threw down a one-handed slam in traffic. Never thought I’d see the day…). Meanwhile, Joe Smith finished with 6 boards, a steal, a block and an assist in 20 minutes. But besides Smith and Wally, there’s not much more to talk about. Ben Wallace was basically nonexistent (2 boards, 2 fouls in 13 minutes) and both Gibson and Pavlovic managed to commit a turnover in their respective 3 and 4 minute stints. They’re gonna need more.

and finally…

Who ya want? On one hand, if the Cavs don’t get to beat the Celtics, I’m gonna be pissed. I hate those bastards (and their fans) and I want LeBron and co. to knock out the Champs. On the other hand, with no KG, they aren’t the same group of guys that sent the Cavs fishing a year ago. At this point, Orlando would be probably tougher simply due to fatigue. I don’t take much stock in the beatdown the Magic laid on the Cavaliers. Orlando is definitely a good team and they can beat the Cavs on any given night. However, over the course of a seven game series, I think the combination of the Cavs’ defensive toughness, LeBron Jamesness, Mike Brown’s preparedness (the tape room just got a week off) will be too much for Orlando to overcome. Either way, don’t expect the Cavs to win many more playoff games by double digits.

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