16 WINS TO A CHAMPIONSHIP
The Cavaliers now know they have the Atlanta Hawks and a secret weapon.
As the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cavs will be the heavy favorite against the Hawks, who earned a spot in the conference semifinals for the first time in 10 years with a 91-78 Game 7 victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday. But the postseason is one constant search for every edge, and the Cavs feel like they have one in Lorenzen Wright.
Out for the season with a broken thumb, Wright is still going to play a role for the team in this series, which starts with Game 1 at The Q at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Wright has played four seasons with the Hawks and was there for all of the 2006-07 season and half of last season before being traded.
He has a depth of knowledge of all the team's key players and its system under coach Mike Woodson. In fact, Wright still maintains communication and friendship with many of the Hawks.
"I talk to those guys all the time," Wright said Sunday after the Cavs finished a night practice, waiting until their opponent was established before starting intense preparation.
"I was talking to them during the whole series when they were playing Miami. I'm very happy for them that they made it out of the first round; that was a goal of ours last season when we were trying to make the playoffs. I sent coach Woodson a congratulations."
"But they're going to have to get ready for us now."
And vice versa, which is where Wright will be swinging into action. Though the Cavs have the Hawks heavily scouted, he has special knowledge of many players' preferences and personalities, especially big men Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia, whom he went against numerous times in practice.
"I've been talking to all my teammates; I know a lot about their big men and what they do down low," Wright said. "I played a lot with Josh and Zaza and Al and I know their games. I'll most definitely be giving some input."
The part he'll make public is what many see as the Hawks' strength and weakness. They have extreme athleticism, more than the Cavs, but they sometimes struggle in slowdown half-court situations at both ends.
"Taking care of the ball is so important so they can't get out in transition," Wright said. "We have to play old-school Basketball; they are a young team and they want to play park Basketball and run up and down the floor. We can't let them get out and throw down dunks and windmills and between-the-leg dunks."
The rest of the Cavs got serious about that approach Sunday with a practice that lasted more than three hours. The Hawks are still somewhat of a mystery because two starters are banged up. Horford has a sprained ankle and played through it at less than 100 percent on Sunday. Normal starting forward Marvin Williams played just five minutes in the last five games against the Heat with a wrist injury.
The Cavs took three of four meetings during the regular season and were 2-0 in Cleveland.
"It is not even about who we are playing, it is we know when we are playing now," LeBron James said. "It's a brand-new series and a brand-new season; no one [cares] what you do during the regular season when the playoffs start."
Wallace treatment: The Cavs will end up with a nine-day break in between games. It allowed forward Ben Wallace to get an electric shockwave treatment on his left knee that the team hopes will help his patella tendinitis that has been bothering him.
Shockwave therapy is used to reduce inflammation and joint pain and is especially effective for what Wallace has, which is commonly called "jumper's knee." But the treatment can be quite painful and can cause several days of downtime. With the extra days off between series, Wallace had the procedure and is now back taking part in practice.
Hickson working: Rookie forward J.J. Hickson is starting to work out lightly with the team after being shut down for nearly a month after tests showed a stress reaction in his lower back. There is no timetable set for his return and there's a good chance Hickson won't push it unless there is an emergency situation.
Ferry second: Sunday the NBA announced that Mark Warkentien of the Denver Nuggets won the Executive of the Year Award. Warkentien got nine of the 30 votes from a panel of NBA executives. Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry finished second with seven votes. The Magic's Otis Smith was third with six votes and the Lakers' Mitch Kupchak and the Bulls' John Paxson were tied for fourth with two votes.
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Round two: Cavs vs. Hawks
Here's how the second-round playoff series between the Cavaliers and Hawks shapes up:
Game 1: At Cleveland, Tuesday, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 2: At Cleveland, Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN
Game 3: At Atlanta, Saturday, 8 p.m., WEWS, Ch. 5
Game 4: At Atlanta, May 11, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 5*: At Cleveland, May 13, TBA, TNT
Game 6*: At Atlanta, May 15, TBA, ESPN
Game 7*: At Cleveland, May 18, 8, TNT
* - if necessary
Hawks 91, Heat 78
These are two players Cavs fans will see a lot of in the next round of the NBA playoffs - Atlanta guard Mike Bibby, left, and forward Josh Smith. They are celebrating the Hawks' win over Miami in Game 7 of their first-round series Sunday in Atlanta. The Hawks' 13-point victory wasn't that close as Atlanta led by 29 in the fourth quarter. Each of the seven games in the series was decided by 10 points or more. Next stop for Atlanta: Tuesday night at The Q, for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Advantage Cavaliers , 3-1
The Cavs won the regular-season series from the Hawks, 3-1. Their only loss came in Atlanta and stopped an 11-game winning streak. Here's a quick look at the four games:
Nov. 22: Cavs 110, Hawks 96
Cavs: LeBron James, 24; Hawks: Maurice Evans, 21
Dec. 13, at Atlanta: Hawks 97, Cavs 92
Cavs: James, 33; Hawks: Mike Bibby, 24
March 1, at Atlanta: Cavs 88, Hawks 87
Cavs: James, 26; Hawks: Joe Johnson, 21
March 21: Cavs 102, Hawks 96
Cavs: Mo Williams, 24; Hawks: Johnson, 24