FYI: Join me for an online chat at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Post-mortem: Cavs 99, Hawks 72
Defense. Defense. Defense.
Looking rusty in the first half and not even thinking about defense, the Cavs clamped down on the Hawks in the second - especially in the third quarter - to run away with the win. James got his team going, but eventually his backcourt - Mo Williams (21 points) and Delonte West (13 points, nine assists) got into the act. Overall in the second half, the Cavs held the Hawks to 30 percent shooting, limiting to just 28 points on offense. In the fourth quarter the Hawks shot for just 25 percent and scored just 11 points. It's a solid win in a game the Cavaliers should have won, given the seven-game series that the Hawks endured.
Third quarter: Cavs 77, Hawks 61
Here's what I'm willing to bet Coach Mike Brown told his team at the halftime: the team taht plays defense will win this game. While the Cavs sputtered through the first half, shaking off some of that rust from the elongated break, they came out with more than a bit of ferocity in the third quarter, holding the Hawks to just 17 points in the quarter. James added 12 points to a halftime total of 22. Impressive to say the least. Barring some improbably comeback - there wasn't any for the Hawks when they were down against the Heat in that series - the Cavs should win this one. They, however, have to keep their foot on the gas to do so. James started getting his teammates involved in the quarter. It makes a distinct difference.
First half: Cavs 49, Hawks 44
At one point the Cavs led this one by 12 points and looked as if they were ready to run away with things. But something cropped its head up as they got sloppy - very sloppy. They only had four turnovers in the half, but I'd bet at least three were unforced. There was always the chance that they would come out rusty, so this isn't unexpected, but they had best be done with that. James needs to get his teammates more involved - he had no assists in the first half - and someone from the bench needs to step up.
First quarter: Cavs 25, Hawks 21
Cavs are shooting 47 percent from the floor while the Hawks are shooting 56 percent. Free throws account for the disparity in scoring. The Cavs have made eight trips to the charity stripe, while the Hawks have hit the line just twice. LeBron James had 14 points in the first quarter. It's quite evident he wants to set the tone for his team because he hasn't had an assist.