Before getting to some pre-game thoughts, let’s talk about what’s really important.
As far I know, LeBron James has not booked any restaurants for a post-game party tonight in Atlanta. I’m not sure if that’s because he figured “24″ would hold down the crowd, or simply because the Cavaliers have a charter flight taking them back to Cleveland immediately following the game.
I mention this only because word of James pre-booking a party at Trois in midtown following Game 3 Saturday night sparked quite a bit of reaction in the blogosphere, and some even in the locker room. Al Horford was stunned, and even said after the Game 3 loss, “I wish I had known that before the game.”
Question: Would it really have made a difference? I mean, would that little bit of extra anger have carried the Hawks over the top in Game 3, setting up the possibility of them evening the series tonight?
Which leads to tonight. I’ve covered several potential sweep-completing Game 4s before, and in three difference sports — basketball, baseball, hockey. There’s one common thread: The team on the verge of being swept ALWAYS comes out playing hard. The vast majority of professional athletes have a ense of pride and they don’t like being associated with a playoff sweep.
But what tends to happen is, the moment the team that’s up 3-0 punches the 0-3 team in the mouth, things quickly unravel. Negative thoughts creep into players’ minds. A sense of, “Just get me to the end of this game,” takes over.
That’s my concern about the Hawks tonight — not that they won’t play hard at the outset, but how’ll they’ll react when James basically says, “OK. Enough of this. Take that!”
And how will Joe Johnson react? The playoffs the last two years have revealed more bad than good about him. That’s something I might get into more in tonight’s game column. It’s not always about scoring for a star player, it’s about leadership, and Johnson hasn’t provided it. What he shows tonight could impact how he’s viewed by fans, media and even the organization. Remember: he only has one year left on his contract.
Josh Smith sometimes says one thing and does another. But at least he said the right thing after today’s shoot-around: “It’s all about pride, not giving up, not throwing in the towel. Even though they only have one more game to win, you don’t want to just roll over and give them that win, without at least giving them a fight.
”It left a sour taste in my mouth how the season ended last year. I don’t want to go through another summer of having nightmares of not performing the way I know how to perform.”
A CAVS LETDOWN? Not likely. I just asked Cavs coach Mike Brown if he would feel the need to talk to his players about not giving the Hawks life in the playoff series. “I’m not a big cliché go or anything like that. This team has been very good the entire year in terms of focusing just on the next game because it’s the next game and hopefully this game is no different. I have not told them that. I’m sure I won’t tell them that. I have heard them say it, led by LeBron.”
Now that’s a leader.
LIVE FROM PRESS ROW: Had some wireless issues in Game 3, causing hiccuping in responses to reader posts. But technical issues aside, we’ll try it again tonight.