Today What: Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks, Game 3. Cavs lead series, 2-0.
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Philips Arena.
TV/radio: WEWS Ch. 5; WTAM AM/1100.
Get Game 3 in-game updates, follow Brian Windhorst's Twitter and check out photos and postgame video.
16 WINS TO A CHAMPIONSHIP
The Cavaliers expect to see a different Hawks team tonight in Atlanta, where the Eastern Conference semifinals continue with Game 3 at Philips Arena. The Cavs lead the best-of-seven series, 2-0.
"Mike Woodson has done a terrific job there," Cavs coach Mike Brown said of his Hawks counterpart. "He's going to do a
terrific job getting his team ready. The crowd is going to be energized, and we are going to have a tough task in front of us."
Added LeBron James: "Every game is challenging because it's the postseason. So we are looking forward to going down to their arena.
"Those fans are unbelievable for them. They do a good job of getting their guys up on their game."
Former Cav Flip Murray is confident his teammates and their fans will be ready to go.
"The atmosphere has been great for us there," said Murray, who spurned several other NBA and European teams when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Hawks last summer. "The fans really have come out and supported us. There has been a lot of energy in the building. They've been in tune with every play of the game, whether we're up or down. We had a great year this year, and they've been a major factor.
"They've been behind us since the opening jump ball in Game 1. It will be wild in there."
The Hawks have given their fans something to cheer about.
The Hawks were 31-10 at home and 16-25 on the road this season, averaging 98.7 points at home vs. 97.6 on the road and shooting 47 percent at home vs. 44.7 percent on the road. They gave up 93 points per game at home vs. 100.1 on the road. Opponents shot 44.5 percent against them at home and 46.4 percent on the road.
Like his teammates, Murray struggled against the Cavs. Known and valued for his instant offense, along with his ability to get his own shot, he averaged just 6.5 points in the first two games of this series, making 4 of 14 shots. This is a guy who was a playground legend in Philadelphia and who finished seventh in voting for the Sixth Man Award. He averaged 12.2 points in the regular season and 12.3 in the first round against the Miami Heat, when he scored a career-playoff-high 23 points in Game 5.
It was his highest regular-season average since 2003-04, when he averaged a career-high 12.4 points in Seattle, where Rick Sund was the general manager. Sund is with the Hawks now, and he, Woodson and Murray had a long talk about what Murray's role would be before Murray signed last summer.
"You need guys like that coming off your bench," Woodson said of Murray. "He can not only score the ball, but he has been a good defender for us as well. We couldn't be happier with a guy like that."
Murray thinks getting things straight ahead of time made all the difference in his performance this season. Playing consistent minutes also helped.
"Once a player is in a system and you know what minutes you're going to play, everything comes easy because you're allowed to just go out there and play your game," Murray said. "I've been in situations where I've been on teams and I never knew what type of minutes I was going to have. I'd have big minutes one game and then I didn't play at all."
That was his situation with the Cavs in 2005-06. Though he had memorable performances to help the Cavs get into the playoffs and make some noise once they were there, he never had a set spot in Brown's rotation.
After that season, Murray signed with Cleveland-based agent Mark Termini and wound up in Detroit and then Indiana. Murray said he loved playing with James and the Cavs, and he knew it wouldn't be long before they became an elite team.
"They've matured, especially LeBron," Murray said. "I think he has really matured into a leader right now.
"When I was there, he was still young and still had a lot to learn. He was trying to do the things he was supposed to do, but he just wasn't experienced enough yet. It was his first year in the playoffs. I don't think he quite knew what to expect. But I think that helped him get to the position he's in right now. He has really energized the whole team and the whole city."
Of course, the Hawks have done that in Atlanta, too.
"We have a very successful season so far," said Murray, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. "We still have a lot of work to do. We're not finished yet."
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