CLEVELAND — The Hawks may have gained more respect in defeat Sunday night than they did in any of their eight postseason wins. The end result of a 114-111 overtime win is the same — the Hawks now trail Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals 3-0 and may play their final game Tuesday night. But given the circumstances of Sunday, they deserve a better fate. Here’s a link to my game column on MyAJC.com (check back for updates).
1. The 1980s laughs at the 2014-15 NBA: Al Horford deserved a foul for firing an elbow into the back of Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova in retaliation after Horford believed Dellavedova went after his legs when the two got tangled up in the second quarter. But to be called for a Flagrant 2, which brings an automatic ejections, was universally panned (well, outside of Cleveland). Horford said he should’ve done a better job controlling his emotions but he didn’t deserve the ejection. He stopped short of calling Dellavedova dirty but said he told the referee, “In the heat of the moment he went after my legs.” (There are more comments in the column.) It was evident, however, that Horford and teammates hold Dellavedova partially responsible for Kyle Korver’s ankle injury in Game 2 since he landed on top of him. Horford: “He can be careless at times.” The NBA automatically reviews flagrant fouls and will determine whether Horford will be suspended for Game 4, but that seems doubtful.
2. Hawks get points for courage: The Hawks lost Thabo Sefolosha late in the season. They lost Korver to an injury, Horford to an ejection and faced a 2-0 deficit as they went on the road to Cleveland. Most expected them to go quietly — credit to them that they didn’t and, in fact, nearly pulled off a miracle win. They got 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals from Kent Bazemore and 13 points off the bench from Shelvin Mack, although he missed consecutive three-point tries in the final seconds. “We played hard and that’s all you can ask for,” said Jeff Teague, who led the Hawks with 30 points.
3. LeBron James is also ailing: The Cavaliers have their own injury problems. Guard Kyrie Irving missed his second straight game with a knee injury and LeBron James also suffered from knee soreness and cramps that needed to be worked on during the game. James missed missed his first 10 shots of the game and made only 3 of 16 in the first half. But he poured in 15 on 7-of-11 shooting in the third quarter and hit a three-pointer with 36 seconds left in overtime to give Cleveland a 112-111 lead. His final stat line: 37 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists, three steals. At the end of the game, he collapsed on the floor in exhaustion.
•Recent ramblings — AJC: Bazemore in, Carroll still standing and Hawks say they’re ready — MyAJC: Hawks have been running on fumes for a while — AJC: These really were the throwback Hawks — and that’s not good — MyAJC: Carroll’s clean MRI alone won’t fix Hawks’ problems — AJC: Carroll’s MRI negative, game status still uncertain — MyAJC: So many negatives won’t work in this round for Hawks — AJC: Game day: Hawks need Korver to find scoring touch — 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