Hawks 98, Hawks 94
--So, I guess LeBron decided to stop playing passive. 32 points in the second half, 12 in the last 1:40, 19 in the fourth quarter. This is the thing about LeBron that it is easy to forget, he is a generational talent and at any moment he can go off like that. Which is why there were 20,562 fans at Quicken Loans Arena on a snowy Wednesday night for a game against the Hawks, just in case. Sometimes I forget. --Anyway, two things happened in the second half. First, LeBron was more more aggressive in going to the basket in the third quarter, which set up the fourth. Second, Mike Brown changed his offense and started putting LeBron at the top of the key a lot. He then played one-on-one instead of running off pick-and-rolls. Now, this is not a great way to play offense, it is a Band Aid, but it worked for tonight. Largely because the Cavs kept moving, they had 16 assists in the second half. --The LeBron jumpers down the stretch were clutch, but they were also true. What I mean by that is that his technique was solid. Since he's come back from the injury, he's been falling away a lot, his old bad habit. In the fourth, he was squaring up. Even on the shot he made with 32 seconds left, he got square and was balanced. If he continues to do that, his jump shot will be improved. --Larry Hughes was 6-of-10 tonight and with him and Daniel Gibson on the floor late in the game and the Cavs spread the floor, the Hawks had to respect the wings and they had to respect LeBron's drive so he had space outside. Sorta of how things would look if the Cavs had good guard play every night. --There were two women wearing halter tops and body paint sitting about four rows behind the Cavs bench. At every time out they would stand up and hold up signs so the Cavs in the huddle could see them. Usually they save such shameless stuff for the hotels. Of course, there was that one woman in Atlanta who stood by the tunnel and had a bunch of cash hanging out of her low-cut top last year. --I keep hearing these Bulls-Cavs rumors involving all sorts of different players. I highly respect Sam Smith, but he openly says in this column where he spreads the rumor that he heard it from a fan and can't confirm any of it. So if he can't confirm it and I can't confirm it and it just comes from message boards, what do you want me to say about it? Forget that common sense says division rivals don't trade with each other, that Kirk Hinrich is only shooting slightly better than Hughes this season or that Ben Wallace contract is longer and his output as sharply downhill as Hughes. If Larry is about to get traded, I don't know about it, I just hear about executives turning down every deal with Hughes in it. So if he gets dealt in the next day or so, I will be glad to give credit elsewhere. --If you are interested, I guest hosted TrueHoop at ESPN.com today and had what I think was a cool post about the life of an advance scout that you may enjoy. Or not.
Hawks: Anthony Johnson, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials: Joey Crawford, Scott Wall, Olandis Poole
--Ira Newble is out sick, he probably would've gotten a lot of playing time tonight because the Hawks play a lot of guys his size. --The Hawks are much improved, especially offensively. They have established their roles well and share the load. Three guys average 15 points or more. Marvin Williams has become an excellent mid-range shooter and Johnson is one of the best pure long-range shooters in the NBA. Horford is a rookie of the year candidate. --The Cavs had two full practices to work on their offensive spacing issues. LeBron has been getting hammered with double teams and they have been working on countermeasures. Also, they have spent practice time working on getting Daniel Gibson some more shots, teams are camping down on him more. Of course everything would be easier if Sasha and Hughes actually made even 40 percent of their shots. --Josh Smith is one of the most dynamic players in the league right now. He is a prolific shot blocker, especially coming from the weakside. The Cavs (especially Sasha and LeBron) will have to be mindful of him.
Halftime -- Hawks 38, Cavs 37
--The Cavs ought to be ashamed they are behind in this game. The Cavs are shooting 32 percent on the road and are winning. The reason, plain and simple, is turnovers. The Cavs have 10 of them in the first half. The Hawks have 10 points off them, but it's actually cost the Cavs more than that because of the lost shot chances. The Cavs have nine more rebounds yet have fewer shots. --LeBron has four points on five shots. Over the last several games, he is looking more and more like the guy who started last season. A couple of times coming off screens he's been triple teamed, so the scoring is going to be hard in that situation. But he's also only got two assists. He's playing passive and that is when he's easiest to defend. --The Cavs missed their last seven shots in the half and shot 43 percent, before that they were shooting 55 percent. Still much of that came from Drew Gooden, who is 6-of-7. Otherwise the offense has been weak. We still don't know if Horford can guard Z, who has just three shots in the first half. They are not putting the big guy in position. Not what you'd expect after Mike Brown had two days of practice.
Stars LeBron, 36 points, six assists Larry Hughes, 14 points Drew Gooden, 13 points, seven rebounds Josh Smith, 20 points, eight rebounds Joe Johnson, 24 points
Quotes Mike Brown: "LeBron was being LeBron. We have all the confidence in the world in him." LeBron: "I was just trying to be aggressive. I have confidence that I can knock down my jump shot." Johnson: "(LeBron) carried his team tonight. For awhile it seemed like he couldn't miss."
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