NBA Insider: The Hawks Looked Helpless

The Cleveland Cavaliers are probably going to lose a game at some point in the playoffs, but it hasn’t happened yet. The Cavs beat the Hawks in Atlanta, 100-99, on Sunday, to win their eighth straight postseason game. Eight up, eight down.

And there’s no denying why the Cavs have been so successful.

“The three-point shooting has been unbelievable,” CBS Sports NBA insider James Herbert said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “This is an unprecedented streak of the way they’ve been firing away three-pointers and shooting them at a higher rate than anybody else in the postseason, but also converting at a better rate than anybody else in the postseason.”

The Cavs made a staggering 77 three-pointers in their four-game series against Atlanta, including an NBA playoff record 25 in Game 2. They also made 57 threes in their first-round series against Detroit.

“It’s not like the Cavs didn’t shoot threes throughout the regular season,” Herbert said. “Their team has kind of been built that way where they wanted to surround LeBron James with as many three-point shooters as possible, but they haven’t done it in this volume and they haven’t made it look so easy. The Hawks, they looked helpless at times during this series, and that was the second-best defensive team in the NBA throughout the regular season. They just couldn’t get out to the Cavs shooters. LeBron James made the game look really easy, getting into the paint, kicking it out, they swing the ball around – they just look like a more cohesive offensive team and a more confident one. I think this is the best Cleveland has looked since LeBron James went back there.”

The Cavs have won each of their close-out games this postseason by a combined three points, but they won Games 1-3 in each series by an average of 13.2 points.

That isn’t unique to Cleveland, either. We’ve seen a lot of blowouts this postseason – even in series that have gone six or seven games.

“It’s a weird one,” Herbert said. “A lot of players say in the playoffs that every game is different, and it sounds like a cliche, but I think this postseason has been the best example of that. We’ve seen in the first game of that Spurs/Thunder series, afterward the question was can Oklahoma City even hang in there with them? Can they even compete? Or is this going to be a relatively quick series?”

Indeed, after dropping Game 1 by 32 points, Oklahoma City has won two of the last three gams to even the series at two games apiece. Game 5 is Tuesday in San Antonio at 8 p.m. ET.

“The Thunder have obviously proven that they can hang with the Spurs,” Herbert said, “but no one was even thinking about that after that blowout in Game 1.”

The defending champion Warriors, meanwhile, hope to rebound after their Game 3 loss in Portland on Saturday. Golden State, which leads the series 2-1, plays the Trail Blazers in Game 4 on Monday.

Don’t be surprised if Steph Curry doesn’t suit up.

“They’re going be cautious with him,” Herbert said. “They’re not going to rush him back just because they lost one playoff game. If he’s ready to go in Game 4, then I’m sure they’ll let him go out there, but if it’s 50/50, they’re going to err on the side of caution. They’re looking at something bigger than just ending this second-round series early.”

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