LeBron James is widely regarded as one of the best-passing forwards in the NBA, but with star point guard Kyrie Irving sidelined with tendinitis, James took over as a point guard of sorts for the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading the Cavs to a low-scoring, yet dominant 94-82 win Friday over the host Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
James was just one rebound shy of a triple-double, finishing with 30 points, nine boards, and 11 assists. And he was on top of his game Friday night, directing traffic in a point guard role, even if he remained the starting small forward. His first seven assists all led to three-pointers, while his eighth led to a Timofey Mozgov dunk. All in all, it was James’ crisp and often spectacular passing, the Cavs’ three-point shooting, and their tough defense that gave them the easy win; Cleveland went 12-for-30 from long distance, and limited the Hawks to 42 percent shooting from the field.
“I’ve got a good vocabulary, but I’m sort of running out of superlatives for that guy. I’m going to let you think of something. You’re the writer,” said Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, waxing eloquent about his franchise player. “He’s just a great basketball player. Everything more that you would add to that is probably better than I can say it.”
With Cleveland having beaten Atlanta twice on the road to start off the series, the onus is now on the Hawks, who trail 2-0 as the series heads to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 and hope to avoid losing the Eastern finals despite being the top seed in the conference. Teams that had lost their first two games in a best-of-seven series have only won 16 out of 268 times in NBA history.