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NBA Playoff Recap - Thursday, May 7

An injury to shooting guard Delonte West was the only bad thing that happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night. The Eastern Conference Finals might be harder to negotiate for Team LeBron, but after another rout of the helpless Atlanta Hawks, there's little doubt that the Cavs will get there.
 
This East semifinal series has the look and feel of a sweep. By whipping Mike Woodson's men, 105-85, at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland took a 2-0 lead to Georgia for the weekend without breaking much of a sweat. The top seed in the East rolled to a 59-35 halftime lead and gained a 68-39 bulge less than three minutes into the second half. With LeBron needing just 31 minutes to score 27 points, Mike Brown's bunch was able to finish off Atlanta after two and a half quarters, resting the big dogs for the days and weeks to come. No Cleveland starter played more than 32 minutes, a sure sign of a noncompetitive exhibition.

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What analysis is needed in a series that--to this point, at least--has been so thoroughly decisive? The Cavs have won these first two games on home hardwood by an average of 23.5 points... and that's a product of stepping off the gas in a pair of garbage-time fourth periods. With Atlanta lacking the services of Al Horford and Marvin Williams, Game 2 became a lopsided affair even more quickly than Game 1 did. Cleveland got to the rim at will in the second game of this series--largely because of the league MVP--and then created open perimeter looks with a similar level of ease. Another sign of the Cavs' Game 2 dominance could be found in the fact that low-key reserve Wally Szczerbiak--an off-the-radar performer who used to toil in the NBA spotlight for the Minnesota Timberwolves--outscored everyone on the Hawks' roster. While Maurice Evans led Atlanta with 16 points, Szczerbiak poured in 17 on 7-of-9 shooting to make the night easy for his teammates.
 
Game 3 is Saturday in Atlanta, where the Hawks will try to make a stand in a series that's already spiraling out of control. While the Cavs don't know about Delonte West--who will be needed against Boston or Orlando--the hottest team in the Eastern Conference looks primed to take care of business in the Athens of the South.
 
 

By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer


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