The Hawks’ four-game winning streak came to an abrupt end Saturday. They were lit up early by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in a 127-94 loss. The Hawks trailed 41-25 after one quarter and 71-43 at the half.
It didn’t get any better.
James led the Cavaliers with a game-high 32 points. He was 13 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He added seven assists, six rebounds and a block.
Paul Millsap led the Hawks with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Here are five observations from the game:
1. If this game was a measuring stick, the Hawks have a long way to go to play with the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Both teams played Friday night and had to travel. Yet, the Cavaliers came out with much more energy and caught the Hawks flat-footed. The Hawks led 2-0 and never again after LeBron James countered with a 3-pointer – the first of many for him and his teammates. The Cavaliers were 19 of 31 from 3-point range. The Hawks were a woeful 3 of 22 from long range.
2. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer won’t be pleased with this defensive effort. He doesn’t like it when the Hawks allow 30 points in a quarter. Allowing 41 first-quarter points was enough to make him livid. The Cavaliers shot 77.8 percent (14 of 18) from the field, including all nine 3-pointers. Yes, the Cavaliers couldn’t miss from deep. They would make their first 11 3-pointers. However, most of the long-distance shots were wide-open looks.
3. Even as the Cavaliers were unstoppable from the field, the Hawks only trailed 21-19 with 5:27 left in the first quarter. The Cavaliers then went on a 41-8 run to the 6:58 mark of the second quarter. The 35-point advantage ended the game. The Hawks could only get as close as 23 points the remainder of the way.
4. With the Hawks trailing by 28 points at the half, Budenholzer elected to start John Jenkins in place of Kyle Korver to start the third quarter. Jenkins had just made his season debut in the second quarter. In the third quarter, Jenkins had eight points on 3 of 4 shooting, including a 3-pointer. Jenkins finished with 12 points.
Korver did not play in the second half. Korver was not injured and the move was described as a coach’s decision. He ended the game without a point, with only one shot, in 14 minutes. It was clear the Cavaliers put an emphasis on stopping Korver early. The Hawks could not respond with other offensive options.
5. You can’t just blame the Cavaliers’ impressive offensive game for the Hawks’ lopsided loss. The Hawks committed 19 turnovers that led to 33 points. They were also out-rebounded 47-37.