ATLANTA (Sporting Alert) — J.R. Smith and LeBron James combined for 59 points and the Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 97-89 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday night.
James scored a game-high 31 points and had eight rebounds and six assists for Cleveland, which finished with 49 rebounds as a team in the contest.
However, it was Smith, who ignited the Cavs, after going 8-of-12 from 3-point range, which is a franchised record.
Overall, Smith was 10-of-16 from the floor off the bench, while dishing out eight rebounds in the victory for the visitors at Philips Arena, here in Atlanta.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 21, 2015
Tristan Thompson finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 boards, while Timofey Mozgov also collected a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Leading point guard Jeff Teague paced the Hawks with 27 points and Al Horford supported 16 points and seven rebounds.
Paul Millsap contributed 13 points and seven rebounds in the defeat for the No. 1 seeded Atlanta, which was dropping the opening game in successive series at home.
“We just have to come out fighting,” he said. Come out ready to play with a lot of intensity.”
Both teams shot in the 50-percent range in the first half and went into the interval locked at 51 apiece.
But Smith, who hit back-to-back three-pointers to open the fourth quarter, and the Cavs blew the game wide open in the closing minutes of the third quarter and the start of the final period – outscoring the Hawks 22-4 to build an 18 point lead.
— NBA (@NBA) May 21, 2015
The Hawks were dealt a huge blow in the second half after star forward DeMarre Carroll suffered a left knee injury while driving to the basket with 4:59 remaining in the fourth quarter and could miss Game 2.
He could be out for even longer.
Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer revealed Carroll indeed has a knee sprain and will have an MRI on Thursday to determined the seriousness of the injury.
Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving played 27 minutes and finished with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting to go with his six assists, but fellow guard Matthew Dellavedova was held scoreless in 25 minutes after going 0-of-6 from the floor, while missing all four attempts from long range.
The Cavaliers will now look to take a 2-0 lead in the series at the same venue in Game 2 Friday night.