Dwayne Wade was so concerned about Miami’s first-round playoff series against the Hawks that he issued a no-party mandate for his teammates while they were in Atlanta.
This would be in contrast to LeBron James, who presumably had such little regard for the Hawks that he reserved all three floors of a midtown restaurant and nightclub for a post-game bash for up to 800 people Saturday night.
When asked about his party plans before the game, James said only, “I’ve got game plans right now, and I’m very focused on Game 3. I’ll worry about it after the game.”
Yeah. Worried. Whatever.
In a perfect world for a Hawks’ fan, this is right about where you would fall on the floor laughing over an Atlanta victory and James’ premature and misguided plans for an evening celebration.
But it wasn’t going to happen. Not this game. Not this series. Not this season.
The Hawks returned to Philips Arena for Game 3 against the Cavaliers, hoping to replicate the magic that enabled them to stretch eventual champion Boston to seven games last season. But playing better defensively and harder for a full four quarters than in the first two games only delayed the inevitable.
They lost, anyway.
The final score (97-82) was more aesthetically appealing than the first two blowouts in Cleveland. But the result was the same. The Hawks are one game from being swept out of the second round.
When told afterward about James’ early party plans, the Hawks’ Al Horford looked stunned.
“Oh, really?” he said. “He’s a confident dude, I guess. But nothing we can do about it.”
It wouldn’t have mattered if Hawks players had been aware of James’ social plans. Motivational tools go only so far in series like this. The Cavaliers are simply superior. They have the look of a team – in talent, depth and drive – that’s building toward a championship. James must have figured he might as well start partying early.
Besides, he scored 47 points.
“There’s a reason he’s the MVP,” Horford said.
You can understand the giddiness in Cleveland. The Cavs are now 7-0 in the playoffs. They’ve won every game by double-digits. They may not be challenged until the finals.
Horford admitted it’s difficult playing these games, knowing the opponent is better. “It’s tough, real tough,” he said. “They play very well as a team. There’s a reason why they’ve won so many games this year. You can do a lot of the right things. But in order to beat a team like that you can’t make any mistakes.”
It hasn’t been much of a series. Best-of-seven? That looks like a punch line. The Cavaliers won the first two games by 47 points, and if they really wanted to, they probably could’ve won Game 2 alone by 47 points. The Hawks’ forcing even a fifth game with a win Monday night looks like a statistical long shot.
So who could blame King James if he had things on his mind in Atlanta other than basketball? He planned a function for 10 p.m. at Trois, a midtown restaurant, for he and “800 of his closest friends,” according to manager Chris Blackburn.
“This isn’t really a party he’s throwing, but he will be in attendance,” Blackburn said. “He just wanted a place to hang out. I think his agent contacted a local promoter who we’ve done business with in the past.”
Almost any other pro athlete would be skewered for that. I guess he figured there was no way the plans would come back to bite him.
But the Hawks gave it a run. They led, 44-40, with two minutes left in the first half. Thank goodness for small victory. The Cavaliers outscored them, 7-2, to close the half and 11-2 to open the third quarter and suddenly was back in familiar territory – with a double-digit lead, 58-48.
But the Hawks didn’t fade. They continued to play strong defensively. They battled back to take the lead. But with 1:32 left in the third quarter, Zaza Pachulia was given two technical fouls for arguing a shooting foul on the Cavs’ Joe Smith and was tossed from the game.
Given the number of ailing bodies in the lineup, losing a healthy one was the last thing the Hawks needed. The Cavs stretched their lead. They won by 15.
And LeBron was just a little late to the party.