Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals featured two teams that did everything in their power to win. Cleveland ended up winning 114-111 over Atlanta in overtime, going up 3-0 in the best of seven series. As an Atlanta fan, it was painful to watch, as the Hawks had multiple opportunities to win. Now, Atlanta must focus on one game at a time to do nearly the impossible, winning four games in a row to advance to the NBA Finals. There was much controversy in this game, but it came down to overtime to decide who would be victorious.
With 34.3 seconds left in the second quarter, the most controversial call in the 2015 NBA Playoffs occurred. After Al Horford missed a shot in the paint, he and Cavaliers point guard, Matthew Dellavedova, fell down onto the floor. Horford seemed to throw an elbow at Dellavedova, resulting in a flagrant 2 foul and was ejected. So while Dellavedova received a technical foul, Horford was sent to the locker room. Many NBA fans and experts did not agree with Horford being thrown out, as it looked as the Cavs point guard could have seriously injured Horford’s leg with the way he went to the ground. No one knows if Dellavedova maliciously tried to hurt Horford, but most can agree Horford should not have been thrown out. What happens if Horford is in the whole game? There are a lot of “ifs” and “buts”, but Atlanta had to deal with the consequences of their all-star center being ejected. The video below shows the replay of the controversial play.
After Horford was ejected, the paint was open most of the night for Lebron James. James finished with 37 points, 18 rebounds, and 13 assists, going for an astonishing triple-double. James started 0-10 from the field, but started to attack the paint more and scored with ease. Hawks head coach, Mike Budenholzer, has played the strategy to allow anyone else to score besides Lebron James. It has failed in these past three games. James either scores over multiple Hawks defenders, or he kicks out to wide-open teammates who have consistently knocked down rhythm shots. It shows why James can be one of the best players to ever play in the NBA. His presence is always a factor, and he found a way to will his team to victory last night.
Atlanta’s achilles showed during many stretches of the game, which is their poor rebounding. Once again, the Hawks lost the rebounding category to the Cavaliers, 56-42. The Cavs had 19 offensive rebounds that resulted in 17 second-chance points. There is no reason the Hawks should allow 19 offensive rebounds to any team in the NBA. The biggest offensive rebound came with under 45 seconds in overtime, as Triston Thompson rebounded and kicked it out to Lebron James to hit a corner three, putting the Cavaliers up 112-111. If Atlanta wants to have any prayer of coming back from 3-0, they better start boxing out every Cavalier on the floor whenever the ball is shot.
Even though the Hawks lost, there were many bright spots for Atlanta in Game 3. Jeff Teague played the way he is capable of playing. Paul Millsap was a free-throw machine. Kent Bazemore looked to have no fear as a starter. Even point guard Shelvin Mack racked up 13 points. Atlanta had so many opportunities to win the game, but it slipped out of their hands. Jeff Teague took the fourth quarter and overtime into his hands, as he kept attacking the basket any chance he could. Not only did he have two huge baskets in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, but he went 9-9 from the free-throw line. Paul Millsap was 11-11 from the free-throw line, and his performance kept Atlanta in the game. The Hawks made most of their free-throws, going 28-32 (87.5%). Atlanta showed grit and fight the whole game, and I have to tip my hat to them for keeping it as close as they did with multiple starters missing.