The Cleveland Cavaliers were tested occasionally Saturday night by the Atlanta Hawks. The end result was still another double-digit blowout playoff win.
If nothing else, you have to credit the Hawks for, at the very least, not being the disinterested and passive Detroit Pistons. The Hawks were engaged at various times throughout the night, played with some pride and with some passion, but still wore a 97-82 beating for their effort.
The Cavs did get pushed a bit and did get tested during Game 3. Atlanta overcame some large Cavalier leads and actually took a couple leads of their own throughout the night. That qualifies as big news in this series as the Hawks hadn't led in either of the first two games at any point later than five minutes into the first quarter.
But the Hawks do not have the backcourt depth that he Cavs do. They don't have the frontcourt depth that the Cavs have. And they do not have the NBA Most Valuable Player to take over when it's called for. LeBron James answered nearly every single Hawks run with extended minutes of near-perfect basketball on his way to 47 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists on the night. LBJ went to the rim at will, he hit 12-16 free throws after drawing numerous hits and fouls and he also locked in from behind the arc, shooting 5-10 from three-point land.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds and Delonte West and Mo Williams combined for 23 points and five assists in support of James.
Joe Johnson scored 21 points on a sprained ankle for Atlanta while Josh Smith had 18 points and nearly as many ill-advised shots.
Sooner or later the opposition will stiffen and offer this Cavalier team some adversity to face. That's why it was nice to see the Cavs respond like they did to what little adversity did offer up Saturday night. It wasn't much, but you can only play the cards you're dealt. In a raucous Philips Arena against a team that didn't immediately lie down and play dead like Detroit did, the Cavs responded with maturity, patience and intensity to the Hawks mini-challenge.
Having that guy in the #23 jersey truly doesn't hurt either.
That has to especially deflating to the Hawks who played easily their best game of the series and were doing so on their home court.
Before we start planning the parade based on that statistic, understand that the Pacers did not win a title that season.
Maybe the Hawks will take solace in the fact they kept the final deficit under 20 points. After all, Cleveland had won their last three playoff games by at least that margin.
They've Got Next
Tip-off for Monday night's Game 4 in Philips arena is set for 7pm on TNT. Before that one jumps you can do a little ECF scouting by watching the Celtics and Magic go at it Sunday evening at 8pm on TNT. Orlando is up 2-1 on Boston as they head into their Game 4 in the Magic Kingdom.