ATLANTA : J.R. Smith knocked down a tough 3-pointer, then another. Turning toward the fans, their heckling transformed to groans, he blew off his right index finger and motioned toward his side, like he was holstering his pistol.
Yep, Smith was that hot.
While LeBron James led Cleveland with 31 points, it was Smith who ignited the Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. He made eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points in a 97-89 victory over the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
Intent on bringing Cleveland its first NBA title, James sealed the victory with a soaring dunk in the final minute.
For the Hawks, it was the second straight series in which they’ve lost the opening game at home. Cleveland will look to take command of the series in Game 2 Friday night.
Making matters worse for Atlanta, DeMarre Carroll went down with a knee injury driving to the basket with 4:59 remaining. He was helped to the locker room, not putting any weight on his left leg, and will undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the seriousness.
Besides being the main defender on James, Carroll had been the Hawks’ leading scorer in the playoffs. He was averaging more than 17 points coming into Atlanta’s first conference final.
Smith has been a huge addition for the Cavaliers since he was acquired in January as part of a three-team trade with New York and Oklahoma City. A player once known for his selfishness, he had learned to work with within the confines of a team led by James.
Having made their deepest run in the playoffs since 1970, the Hawks carried that momentum to a nine-point lead in the opening quarter. Atlanta shot 61 percent and James went to the bench with about 3 minutes remaining in the period after picking up his second foul.
James returned in the second quarter and began to take control of the Cleveland offense. He scored 14 points in the period on 7-of-9 shooting, taking advantage when the Hawks tried to bait him into a third foul by guarding him with smaller players.
The game was tied 51-all at the half.
Cleveland Cavaliers 97 beat Atlanta Hawks 89
Schedule for Cleveland (Live matches in India)
Saturday 23rd May, 2015. Monday 25th May, 2015, Wednesday 27th May, 2015.