HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Though they both looked vulnerable at times, the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers took care of business to give us the conference finals matchup we’ve been anticipating since the Hawks went on a 33-2 run after Thanksgiving.
This series is a contrast of styles. The Cavs are a team that relies heavily on LeBron James, especially with Kevin Love out for the postseason and Kyrie Irving dealing with leg injuries. The Hawks, meanwhile, like to share the wealth.
While James has been to the conference finals seven times in his 12-year career, this is the first trip there for the Hawks since 1970. Kyle Korver (in 2011 with Chicago) and Paul Millsap (in 2007 with Utah) are their only rotation players who have been here before.
But the Hawks have the knowledge that they tore up what had been an improved Cleveland defense in the final regular-season meeting between the two teams. In the regular season, only one team — New Orleans — scored more efficiently against the Cavs than Atlanta did.
The Cavs scored pretty efficiently against the Hawks too. And the conference finals promises to bring new wrinkles to this matchup. James faced the San Antonio Spurs in the last two Finals. To get there again, he’ll have to get through the Spurs of the East.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Eastern Conference finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more.
Atlanta Hawks (60-22)
Beat Brooklyn in six games.
Beat Washington in six games.
Pace: 96.8 (6)
OffRtg: 102.0 (9)
DefRtg: 98.2 (2)
NetRtg: +3.9 (4)
Hawks playoff notes:
- Have outscored their opponents by 16.0 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, but have been outscored by 5.1 in the second.
- Have assisted on 67.6 percent of their field goals, the highest mark of the playoffs. The Hawks have led the regular season in assist rate each of the last three years.
- Free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.216 is the lowest of the postseason.
- Have scored 107.9 points per 100 possessions in 425 minutes with Paul Millsap on the floor and just 86.2 in 156 minutes with him on the bench. That differential of 21.7 points per 100 possessions is the largest on-off-court OffRtg differential among 64 players who have logged at least 200 playoff minutes.
- Al Horford has shot 79.7 percent in the restricted area, the best mark among players with at least 35 restricted-area attempts.
- Jeff Teague leads the playoffs with 22 points scored in clutch time (the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with the score within five points).
- Horford has set 172 ball screens for Teague, the most any player has set for a teammate in the playoffs, according to SportVU.
- Kyle Korver has scored 78 percent of his playoff points from 3-point range, the highest mark in the postseason.
- Korver has attempted 12 clutch-time 3-pointers (four more than any other player), but has made just one of them.
Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29)
Beat Boston in four games.
Beat Chicago in six games.
Pace: 92.9 (16)
OffRtg: 108.2 (1)
DefRtg: 98.8 (4)
NetRtg: +9.5 (1)
Cavs playoff notes:
- Best first-half team of the playoffs, having outscored their opponents by 18.1 points per 100 possessions. No other team has been better than plus-7.7 in the first half.
- Have held their opponents to an effective field goal percentage of just 44.7 percent, the best mark of the playoffs.
- LeBron James leads the postseason in usage rate, having used 35.4 percent of the Cavs’ possessions when he’s been on the floor.
- James also leads the postseason with 13.9 drives per game, according to SportVU.
- Kyrie Irving has an effective field goal percentage 80.6 percent on uncontested jump shots, the best mark among players who have attempted at least 25, according to SportVU. He has shot 5-for-9 on uncontested 2-point jump shots and 16-for-27 on uncontested threes.
- Tristan Thompson has been the second best offensive rebounder of the playoffs, grabbing 14.6 percent of available offensive rebounds.
- Opponents have shot just 34.7 percent at the rim with Timofey Mozgov there to defend it. That’s the best mark among players who have defended at least four shots at the rim per game in at least five playoff games.
- James has shot 7-for-46 from 3-point range, the worst mark among players with at least 20 attempts.
- The Hawks were the only team to beat the Cavs three times in the regular season.
- The Hawks’ starting lineup played together in only the fourth meeting. DeMarre Carroll missed the first meeting, Teague missed the second, and Horford missed the third.
- The lineup that the Cavs started in the last five games of the conference semifinals did not play at all against Atlanta. Cleveland had Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith for only the fourth meeting.
- The Hawks’ effective field goal percentage of 57.6 percent was the best any team shot against the Cavs. The Cavs’ effective field goal percentage of 54.9 percent was the best any Eastern Conference team shot against the Hawks.
- Seven different Hawks averaged at least 10 points per game against the Cavs. None averaged more than 30.4 minutes.
- The Cavs averaged 3.32 passes per possession and 7.8 secondary assists per game, up from 3.09 and 5.6 against other opponents, according to SportVU.