Cavs pinch home advantage after Smith, James star against Hawks.
JR Smith and LeBron James inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 97-89 win over the Atlanta Hawks to open the Eastern Conference Finals series.
James (31 points, eight rebounds) led all comers at the Hawks’ Philips Arena, but Smith was irrepressible – going eight-from-12 from three-point range on his way to 28 points.
Smith’s haul of three-pointers matched the franchise’s play-off record.
“I’m in a great grove, I got great coaches that help me alot with my shot and getting a lot of shots up,” Smith told TNT reporters post-match.
The Cavs’ win saw them claim home-court advantage in the best-of-seven swing.
Smith caught fire at the start of the second quarter with three baskets from range, before he drained another eight points in the final three minutes of the third – including two threes – to send Cleveland to the final quarter with a seven-point lead.
And the likelihood of a Hawks comeback was all-but snuffed in the opening 2:01 of the final stanza, as Smith sunk another three threes to see Cleveland’s lead balloon out to 18 points.
Atlanta did not throw in the towel, however, cutting the deficit to four points with just under one minute to play – only for James to dunk and pop in a pair of free throws to see the Cavaliers get over the line.
Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 27 points, while they lost DeMarre Carroll during the last quarter with what coach Mike Budenholzer labelled a “knee sprain” at his post-match news conference.
Carroll is set to undergo an MRI scan on Thursday.