Welcome to the Eastern Conference finals. (It’s the first time I’ve typed those words in Atlanta, since, well, ever.)
If you missed it, click this link to go to a full column on MyAJC about this unique third-round match-up againsst Cleveland: It’s the Hawks’ socialism style offense vs. LeBron James and lesser Cavaliers.
Now, onto this blog: The Hawks have managed to reach the conference finals despite Kyle Korver’s offensive struggles, primarily fortwo reasons: 1) Korver has been strong defensively, including six steals, five rebounds and two blocked shots in a Game 5 win over Washington; 2) Others have picked up the scoring slack, because that’s what this team does.
But I’m not sure the Hawks can eliminate Cleveland unless Korver starts hitting some shots.
“I think this series is going to be really big for him,” DeMarre Carroll said. “They’ve been face-guarding him the whole time. Hopefully we can get him going early.”
Korver made only six of 22 shots (27.2 percent) in the last four games of the Washington series, when his point totals were 6, 6, 3 and 2, respectively. He was one for 12 from three-point range in the last two games. Cleveland probably isn’t as strong defensively as the Wizards, which feeds into the theory that the Hawks’ ball movement could create problems and Korver may find himself with more open shots.
Cavaliers and former Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert said the key to defending Korver is “keeping him uncomfortable. Guys like that want a lot of room. They want space to shoot. But I’ve guarded other shooters. He is a tough matchup. He uses screens well. He also screens for other people to get them open knowing that you won’t help off him. Headsy guy but I’m willing to take that challenge.”
Korver ranked second in the regular season in three-point efficiency at 49.2 percent, but in the postseason he’s 8 for 35 (35 percent). He hasn’t shied away from criticism, even if it probably irritates him that he’s viewed as a one-dimensional player.
“I love basketball. I love the whole game,” he said. “Obviously shooting is usually what I’m best at but I love all of it — defense, passing, setting screens. We all need to be basketball players out there. We’re all unique pieces and we fit together and that’s what makes us who we are.”
We’ll find out more tonight.
•Recent ramblings — MyAJC: Is Hawks’ sum greater than one LeBron? — AJC: Odds say Cleveland, but when have odds ever said Hawks? — AJC: Hawks in conference finals — and so is Josh Smith — MyAJC: Mike Budenholzer’s leadership may continue to grow — MyAJC: Hawks finally reach East’s promised land — AJC: Short take: Pierce foiled, Teague finishes strong, Hawks move on — MyAJC: Hawks in East finals would make Atlanta top 10 — MyAJC: Hawks in one win from higher elevation — MyAJC: Hawks come through when it matters most — AJC: Short takes: Horford comes through, Teague bows out — MyAJC: Desperation shouldn’t be Hawks’ prime motivator — MyAJC: Brady, Patriots got what they deserved — AJC: Another lesson for Brady, Patriots: Don’t cheat, don’t lie — MyAJC: Jalen Collins determined to make Falcons’ pick look good — AJC: Wall’s injury shifts odds in Hawks’ favor for game, series — MyAJC: Braves’ McDowell trying to repair some damaged egos — AJC: Brady’s agent suggests ‘sting operation’ by NFL, Colts. Really? — AJC: Pats, Brady clearly cheated and Bob Kraft is in denial — MyAJC: Hawks survive but they didn’t make it easy