Two losses in Cleveland have left the Hawks in a precarious position. If they drop Game 3 at home, the Cavaliers will take a commanding lead that almost guarantees a defeat in the series. This is a must-win situation for Atlanta.
There was little the Hawks could do in Game 2. The Cavaliers rained fire on them from outside, breaking the record for most three-pointers in a playoff game with 25. J.R. Smith had seven of his own and in total 10 Cleveland players connected on at least one outside shot. The game was over at the half, as the lead was 36 points. It was a drubbing that saw the Cavaliers perform at their absolute best.
The Hawks did themselves no favors by turning the ball over 12 times in the first two quarters alone, allowing Cleveland to feast on those mistakes. Paul Millsap was the only one who played at his usual level. Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver struggled for the second game in a row and Al Horford can't find his bearings against this opponent. Playing at home might be what they need as a team to go back to locking down on defense and playing unselfish offense once again.
The Cavaliers are clearly the best team in the East and will likely represent their conference in the NBA finals. Their path, however, was never supposed to be this easy, as they are yet to lose a game. Atlanta might not have the firepower to beat them in a series, but they certainly have the talent and the experience to at least give them their first loss.
So far they have been helpless, but everything can change in a single night. If the three-pointers stop falling for Cleveland and start going in for Atlanta, the Hawks might have a chance to match the Cavaliers' offense. On defense, they have their work cut out for them going against Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love, but they were elite on that end during the regular season.
There's still time to make this a close series, but the Hawks can't afford to lose at home.
How to watch Cavaliers vs. Hawks Game 3
Place: Philips Arena
Time: 7 p.m. ET
* * *