Cleveland – It’s over, folks. More than just losing two games, the Hawks have lost players and heart. They’re undermanned. They’re overwhelmed. Soon they’ll be outta here.
This one has sweep written all over it. Yes, a certain series a year ago bore the same look after two distressing road games, and that one went the distance. But Al Horford and Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson weren’t injured then, and these are the Cavs and they’re even more driven than Boston was. LeBron James might not let his team lose a half, let alone a game.
And the Hawks who showed up at Quicken Loans Arena – or, more precisely, didn’t show up – pale alongside the spirited bunch that took Games 3, 4 and 6 from Boston, even alongside the polished crew that saw off Miami in Game 7. In three days here the Hawks managed the difficult task of hurting themselves while taking a dive.
“I don’t know who’s going to dress on Saturday,” Mike Woodson said afterward. And then: “We’ve got to get our main guys on the floor and see what we’re made of.”
Alas, we’ve already seen.The Hawks weren’t going to win Game 2 Thursday without Horford and Williams, but they might have given the appearance of desperation. Instead Josh Smith got two (and then three) early fouls and Johnson managed only three baskets in 22 first-half minutes and by halftime the Cavs led by 24 points, which meant they could have wiped away LeBron’s 18 and still his team would have been ahead.
Two sequences told the grim tale: At the end of the first quarter, LeBron somehow got isolated against poor Solomon Jones. On cue, LeBron whirled past Jones and dunked behind his head.
Flash forward to the shank of the second quarter: The Hawks sought to hold for one shot, though there was a four-second difference between the clocks. They wound up being whistled for a 24-second violation. And LeBron took the ball in backcourt and, from 40 feet away, rose above Mario West and flipped the ball through the hoop.
Obvious point: LeBron can do whatever he wants – he just missed a 45-footer at the end of the third quarter – and the Hawks suddenly can’t do anything. “We need to act like we want to be here,” Johnson had said after Game 1, but almost nobody, Johnson included, has behaved that way.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Said Mo Evans, who led the Hawks with 16 points: “Even if we’d been at 100 percent, I don’t think we could have won playing the way we did.”
And then Johnson got hurt. He was going for a layup against LeBron with the Hawks trailing by 32 points in the third quarter, and he missed the shot and came down wrong and was off to the locker room, and soon he was in a wheelchair. Woodson’s prognosis: “He tweaked his ankle.”
The mighty Cavs might well have been, as they say in England, a bridge too far for the full-strength Hawks. Still, you’d like to have seen more effort, more passion, more something. The belief coming into this series was that the Hawks needed only to avoid being swept to call this season a success, and now even that modest goal seems a forlorn hope.
It’s said a playoff series doesn’t really begin until the road team wins, but these two wipeouts have belied that bromide. The home side rolled. The road team didn’t even stir. This one’s over.
More on me versus the “mayor”: I promise not to belabor this — indeed, I’m hoping soon to forget it ever happened — but here’s an independent (or so I assume) take on what transpired on a certain Cleveland station last night. (For my admittedly self-interested version, click here.)
And, as Lt. Columbo would say, one last thing: My new best buddy Spirit the Hawk Tweeted me late last night. Here was his heartfelt message:
“Taking on the entire city of Cleveland solo…you’ve got seriously commendable Spirit, Mr. Bradley!”