CLEVELAND, Ohio– LeBron James scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving added 21 and the Cleveland Cavaliers withstood a strong comeback by Atlanta to maintain their chokehold on the Hawks with a 104-93 victory on Monday night in the opening game of their second-round Eastern Conference series.
James converted a critical three-point play with 2:09 left for the Cavs, who fell behind in the fourth after leading by 18. Cleveland swept Atlanta in last year’s Eastern Conference finals and has won eight straight over the Hawks. Cleveland also improved to 9-0 against Atlanta in the postseason.
Dennis Schroder scored a playoff career-high 27 and rallied the Hawks before they crumbled in the closing minutes. Atlanta’s offense bogged down in crunch time and the Hawks only scored two field goals in the final 4 minutes.
Paul Millsap added 17 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta, which got just eight points from Jeff Teague.
Game 2 is on Wednesday night at the Q.
Cleveland began the Eastern Conference Semifinals well-rested and healthy. The Cavs last played a game last Sunday when they swept the Detroit Pistons in Game 4. A year ago, the Cavs entered the second round of the playoffs without Kevin Love after he injured his shoulder against Boston in round one of the playoffs.
Atlanta comes to Cleveland after beating the Boston Celtics in 6 games in the opening round of the playoffs. The Cavs swept Atlanta during the regular season (3-0) and swept the Hawks last year in the Eastern Conference Finals. Cleveland is 8-0 all-time in the postseason against Atlanta.
The Cavs Big 3 of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving helped lead the Cavs to a first-round sweep of Detroit. LeBron has dominated the Hawks in the postseason, averaging 30 points a game; he has never scored less than 23 points in a game against Atlanta.
The biggest question for the Cavs is: Will the long layoff hurt or help Cleveland as they begin the second round? A year ago, Cleveland lost to Chicago in game 1 at Quicken Loans Arena after sweeping the Boston Celtics.