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Gameblog: Cavs at Atlanta Hawks

By George Thomas Published: December 13, 2008

Post mortem:
Early lackluster play doomed the Cavaliers tonight.  In the first quarter they weren't as aggressive as they have been in going after the ball.  The Hawks beat them on the boards throughout the game with the Cavaliers only winning the fourth quarter by a single board. 
This team's dilemma is that they've grown accustomed to be able to turn things on at will.  The problem:  With center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and guard Daniel Gibson gone, they do not have that luxury.  They have to play intelligent basketball throughout the quarter.
In the fourth quarter their defense failed them.  It reminded me of those days when they were close to grasping a win only to have it yanked away becuase they couldn't get a defensive stop.  The Hawks' Joe Johnson burned them with 11 points in the fourth quarter and even Coach Mike Brown admitted that they didn't have an answer for him.
It didn't hurt that the Hawks shot 39 free throws to the Cavs 23.
On the good side:  they erased a 14 point deficit to make things close and even had the chance to tie the game on separate three-point attempts by Mo Williams and Delonte West that both landed with thuds.
Both got good looks, but neither shot fell.  I don't necesarily know that there's such a thing as a good win.  However, with their win streak now gone, this one can serve as a reality check that in their current roster configuration, the Cavs need to play four quarters of basketball, not just over two.
Quotable:
Coach Mike Brown on the disparity in free throws:

We didn’t lose the game because of that, but I was a little shocked with the way the disparity was. You question some calls, but I’m sure when we win come games, our opponents question some calls too, so I’m OK with it.
LeBron James on the loss:
It was just a matter of who got more stops in the end, and the Hawks came up with more than we did.  We definitely had our chances tonight, but the Hawks just made more plays.
At the half:  Atlanta 47, Cavs 38 The Cavs suffered through their lowest scoring first half of the season.  What's surpising is the Hawks' margin of victory isn't greater.  They had opportunities to blow this one open and couldn't. Another observation:  Zydrunas Ilgauskas' value to this team is even more evident.  The middle of the court is congested.  Z's ability to hit from the outside forces teams to protect the perimeter - not to tonight.  Because of that you see Anderson Varejao trying to pick up the slack, but he's not Z, he can't be relied upon to hit that open 15-19 foot jump shot.  He needs to play his game and quit worrying about whose shoes he's filling.
Game: Cavs (20-3) at Atlanta Hawks (13-9)
Broadcast:  TV: FSOhio WAKR (1590 AM); WTAM (1100 AM), WHBC (1480 AM)
Starters: Cavs: Anderson Varejao (F); Ben Wallace (F); LeBron James (F); Delonte West (G); Mo Williams (G).  Hawks:  Marvin Williams (F); Josh Smith (F); Al Horford (C); Joe Johnson (G); Mike Bibby (G)
Injuries:  Cavs:  Daniel Gibson (sprained left toe); Zydrunas Ilgauskas (left ankle sprain), Eric Snow (knee).  Hawks: Speedy Claxton.
Officials:  Mike Callahan, Derek Richardson, Scott Wall
Streaking:  Cavs tied a club record Friday night with its 11th consecutive win.  Atlanta won its last outing beating the Miami Heat.
Last time:  The Cavs beat the Hawks 110-96 at Quicken Loans Arena. What to watch:
  • This is the second week out of three that the Cavaliers have had contend with two back-to-backs in a week.  The last time out they went 4-for-4.  Although the goal is to continue winning, look to see whether mental and physical fatigue has set in.
  • Anderson Varejao stepped up in a major way to fill the shoes of an injured Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 17 points and seven rebounds.  For the Cavaliers to continue to win, Varejao will have to continue to deliver.  It would make a big difference if Darnell Jackson, who looks as if he may have moved ahead of fellow rookie J.J. Hickson continues to rebound.
  • Delonte West on Joe Johnson.  Some fans wonder why West gets so much ink and airtime in the area.  It's simple, don't just look at the box score.  West's value shows up on the defensive side of the ball.   Tonight he'll have his hands full with the Hawks' Joe Johnson who stands about four inches taller and averages 23 points per game. During their first game earlier this season, West held Johnson to just four points.  Understand the value now?
Quotable:
From the coach's office:
Mike Brown on why he doesn't simply try to out score opponents and relies on defense:
It’s happened time and time and time again with teams that try to go that route. They’ll go that route three or four years, win a ton of games, but then all of a sudden we have to figure out a way to play defense and the whole team is dismantled and usually the coach is gone.
From the locker room:
LeBron James on the contributions of Anderson Varejao:
Andy’s been playing exceptionally well.  He kept up his performance like he did when he was coming off the bench last night by starting.  We need that same effort until Z gets back and I think he’s ready for the challenge.
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