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Game Quotes: Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks - May 20

Kyrie only played 27 minutes. Was he on restrictions, or was it due to J.R.'s hot hand?
Was not on a restriction, and he got banged up a little bit, and we limited his minutes as a result.

J.R. was outstanding during the third and fourth. Could you tell me if there's anything specific that you did to get him open and available for those shots?
Yeah, we got him the ball. Doesn't take a whole lot for him to get it up there. Those people and most do, of course -- that know J.R., when he gets hot, he gets smoking hot. He was terrific. Probably overlooked in his great shooting performance was the fact that he defended as well as he did and he got eight rebounds. I'd love to know when the last time a guy made how many did he make? Eight. When a guy made eight threes and got eight rebounds. That's an interesting question. I don't remember, but I'm sure it's happened. That's pretty unusual.

David, can you kind of talk about LeBron's night. He was really dominating there for a while, and it seemed like he tweaked the ankle, he did something to the ankle
Stepped on somebody on the sidelines.

And he kind of had to adjust from there.
Well, LeBron came in with a purpose today, and he led his team, as he is wont to do in big games. Gave it to us at both ends. I thought down toward the end we all got a little bit winded, but that's just because we were playing so hard on the defensive end, it probably had an effect on us at the other end. But he was terrific, just terrific.

Considering J.R. Smith scored 28 points, hit eight threes tonight, what are some things that concern you that the Cavs can work on that were maybe unnoticed because you got the "W" tonight, thanks to J.R. Smith's hot hand?
Number one, we can always do better. When you have a good team, some nights one guy is the guy that gets it for you, and another night it might be someone else.
If you meant by the question that perhaps maybe we're not going to win unless J.R. Smith makes eight threes, then I would beg to differ, because we have other weapons on our team and we play good basketball in many other facets of the game. Tonight was a game that J.R. stepped up in a big way, and obviously he had a big part in that victory, but it's still a team victory, and tomorrow it may be somebody else. Now, if you can promise me he'll do it again, then I'll be happy to live with that.

The difference in your team's defense from the first half to the second half, what did you like about what you guys did defensively in the second half?
Well, a couple things. You know, it's not the first time, and it's also not an abnormal thing. Number one, we turned it over nine times in the first half, and we gave up a lot of transition baskets as a result of that, and we were a little bit out of rhythm defensively because offensively we were not as responsible with the ball as we needed to be. The second thing is I thought we adjusted well to how they were playing, and they were playing very well on offense, as Atlanta is capable of doing. A lot of times it's the other guy, too. They were moving the ball, and they were making some shots, and they were attacking.
We just sort of adjusted and found our rhythm defensively. We were better with the ball, which led to less easy transition baskets. And when we have the chance to lock in and play the half court defense that we've been playing throughout the playoffs, we've got a good shot. The guys stepped up, and they were terrific at the defensive end in the second half, just terrific.

In the first half, particularly in the second quarter, LeBron had a lot of success in the block scoring in the post. It seemed like in the fourth quarter, maybe he went away from that a little bit. He was obviously matched up against a different defender. What did you see out of his approach in the fourth?
Paul Millsap was guarding him, and he was guarding him at the perimeter, and we were attacking him that way. That was his advantage. But perhaps we could have put him back down in the post even against Paul, and if so, that's on me, not on him. But I still thought that we controlled the tempo of the game in that fourth quarter. We were tired a little bit, and we had to slow the game down, and we did. Ultimately, we came away with the victory.

At the end of the game, you guys, the offense seemed to get bogged down. Was that, just as you were saying, that the guys were tired, or was there something that was kind of leading you to take more jump shots than usual?
We could have played it better at the end, to be honest with you, but I think that's going to be tomorrow's subject. I think tonight we're going to be happy that we beat a very good team on their floor in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. I thought we did a lot of things very, very well, and there's still a lot to improve, and that's good news.

In the series against Chicago, Chicago went into that series as one of the best three point shooting teams in the postseason. Atlanta is one of the best three point shooting teams in the postseason. 4 of 23 tonight for Atlanta. What are you doing specifically when it comes to guarding the three point line? And has that been a point of emphasis?
All year. All year. The Cleveland Cavaliers last year were the last place team in the league, giving up three point shots, makes, total, percentage wise. That's been a point of emphasis since day one here, and we've definitely improved in that area, and we wanted to.

J.R., you were obviously in the zone tonight. How much fun is it to not only be in a system that fits your skill set but encourages you shoot?
It's extremely fun. It's easy to play. I get a lot of open shots. It's easy to get into a rhythm early. Once I start shooting, whether I make or miss, everybody tells me to start shooting. So it's a great situation.

I have one for both of you guys: J.R., before you came to Cleveland, you had a certain reputation in the league. People had a certain idea of who you were. How important was it for you to change that reputation, and what steps do you think you made as soon as Cleveland called you, saying they were interested in trading for you?
It was extremely important because more than anything, for my parents. My parents, they know what type of person they raised, and they know what type of person they inspired me to be. So it wasn't really for myself, it was more for them, if not for anybody.

J.R., how important was it for you to keep things rolling after you got hot early?
I just try to just roll with the punches. I mean, once the team pretty much starts closing out, just try to get in attack mode, and at the same time, try to find my teammates. It's kind of hard, hitting the shots I was hitting, to try and pass the ball, but you've got to figure out a way.

J.R., for you to be on this platform right here on the major stage, Eastern Conference Finals, how gratifying is this for you, a person who's been through all that you've been in throughout your career, and to be at this stage and people talking about you in a positive light and talk about what you're doing on the basketball court.
Like I said, it's great. It's a great situation for me. It's more for my mom. I mean, she's probably my biggest fan. When all those negative things are being said and stuff like that, me personally, I really don't care, but for her, to see her hurting, to see her go through those situations, to feel the way she feels, it's a terrible feeling for me because I know I'm putting her in those situations.
So if anything, it's just for her.

You and DeMarre seemed to be jawing a bit in the first half, but after he went down, you seemed to share a moment. Can you share what you said to him?
At the end of the day, we're all a brotherhood. NBA is a brotherhood, and you never want anyone to get injured, even in combat. So that's what went through my mind. Obviously, I love competing versus anybody who loves to compete as well. He's one of those guys that was competing throughout the night, throughout the postseason. I'm not sure the severity of the injury right now. But I hope he has a recovery, whatever it is. You just don't want nobody to get hurt like that.

LeBron, could you tell us the difference or which, I guess, the group of shooters that you played with in Miami and compare those to this group you have now because both can explode.
I've been fortunate enough to play with some shooters to help spread the floor for myself and what I do best, and that's being in attack mode. To be able to play with one of the all time greats in Ray Allen, and also play with Mike Miller and Shane Battier and James Jones still, and then you get a guy like J.R. Smith, who's able just to shoot the ball and have the extreme confidence that every time they let it go, that it's going in. I've been blessed to play with guys like that. When you have guys like that, you have to utilize them while they're on the floor.

LeBron, can you talk about the play in the last 37 seconds, when you went for a dunk.
Coach drew up a play, and we just try to run it to perfection. He drew up a play, and Double T [Tristan Thompson] came up and set a screen-and-roll. I was able to get to the middle of the floor. The ability, the way we were shooting the three ball tonight, kind of kept those last two defenders at bay, and I was able just to turn the lane and make a big play for our team at that time.

LeBron, when the organization first approached you and said, We can make a move to get J.R. Smith but we have concerns, what was your idea about the importance and the value of getting a player like this in your franchise?
Get him here, and I'll take care of it.

You said you planned to take care of it?
Yeah, I got him. You get him here, I got him. Yeah, I got him (laughter).

LeBron, what worked for you for the team defensively against the Hawks against their three point shooting?
We have a great coaching staff, first of all, that gives us a game plan. We kind of, throughout these six days, we've kind of been balancing ways we can try to not stop what they do, but just try to limit some of their touches, limit some of Kyle Korver's touches and some of their other three point shooters.
We're the number one defensive team in the playoffs, and it has a lot to do with when we go out, as a coaching staff, they give us the game plan. And for us as players, we go out and execute it. For us to win ultimately, we have to defend.
Tonight we shot 44 percent from the field, but we defended. We gave ourselves a chance. When you defend at a high level, you give yourself a chance to win every night.

LeBron, you touched on it a little bit, but two quick questions: What was it that you saw in J.R. that made you very in favor of bringing him to Cleveland? Number two, what type of satisfaction do both of you get after having a game like this against the Hawks?
Me and J.R.'s history go back long before he came into the NBA. Before he came into the NBA, he came to my hometown, and we worked out multiple days, multiple times. For me, as a leader of a team, you always just want to try to give someone an opportunity. With the talent this guy presents, I knew the man he was, and I didn't really care about what everybody else thought about him.
Obviously, our front office, they have the last say so, and for me, they have the last say so, but when they made it and said they were going to do it, I was definitely all for it. I felt like, for me, we were getting a great piece, not only on the floor, but off the floor, as well, because I'd known him before he even got to this point.
To answer your second question, to be able just to make plays to help your team win is all that matters for me. We have a guy like this that was shooting the ball extremely well, who broke the game open, but also the contributions from Delly off the bench again, and the two bigs, both of them having double doubles. That was big time.

Two questions: One, could you take us through what happened in the third quarter, I think when you stepped on the camera guy. And then, two, after some really good quarters offensively, second and third quarter, you guys seemed to get out of rhythm a little bit in the fourth. What happened there until you finished with that dunk?
Like you said, in the third quarter, I went to contest DeMarre Carroll's three point attempt, and the cameraman, I guess his foot was out further than it should be, but I stepped on his foot and turned my ankle.
I'm happy that it didn't cost me the rest of the game. I was able to go out there and make a few plays.
I think, to answer your second question, we can't worry about how many points we're up or how many points we're down; we have to continue to play our game. It starts with me. I take all the responsibility for it. In fourth quarter, I played way too much isolation basketball, one on one basketball, a lot of defenses set, and I was letting the clock run down way too much. I just had to take the shot or I was giving it to my guys late in the shot clock, and they couldn't do nothing with it besides shoot it or turn the ball over.
So I will do a better job. I'll probably watch the game over again tonight, as I try to get my body ready for Game 2. So it starts with me.

LeBron, what Kyrie's going through right now, can you say anything to him? Is this something that he has to become resigned to the fact that maybe the rest of the playoffs he'll be laboring through these injuries?
It's tough, and I know it sucks for him. This is the moment he's been waiting for. This is the biggest stage. Physically, he's not capable of doing what we all know he's capable of doing, and it's starting to, I guess hopefully, it doesn't continue or hopefully it doesn't get into his mind. For me, that's my role at that point, to let him know when he's on the floor, no matter what he's going through, we need him to be aggressive, as aggressive as he can be with the injury, and not worry about things that he cannot control; only worry about the things that he can control.
Like I said, that will be my job to help him understand, no matter what he's going through physically, never let it creep into his mind where it affect him mentally.

LeBron, you mentioned the defense in the postseason for you guys, giving up 51 to Atlanta in the first half and then 38 the rest of the way. What changed in the second half for you?
We started to get kind of a rhythm of what they wanted to do, but we also just put pressure not only at the point of attack, but when the ball was moved from side to side.
Like I said, our coaching staff gives us a game plan, and it's up to us to execute it. They're going to make shots. They're one of the, if not the best with Golden State, best offenses we have in our league. We just try to make it tough on them.

LeBron, you mentioned the iso ball. Do you know, in the midst of it, in the middle of the game, can you feel it slowing down? Can you feel you're doing it too much? Or is it only after the game when you can kind of decompress a little bit and look at the numbers?
I kind of sense it. I sense it during the game a little bit, and it's tough sometimes with our main ball handler not being on the floor, and that's Kyrie. That's something that I'm not happy with, something I'm not really comfortable with doing. I can do it, but I don't like to play that much isolation basketball late in the game. I'd much rather get the ball moving from side to side and get a good look after that.
So like I said, I'll be more conscious about that in Game 2, if that opportunity presents itself, where at least I can get the ball moving to start and then maybe at the back side, or like the third option I can get it back at the end. At least we got the defense moving instead of them just watching me pound the ball for 24 seconds. That's not good basketball.

(On winning game one on the road)
“It was definitely big for us. Whenever you’re the team that’s on the road first you want to be able to take away the home-court advantage, and that’s what we did tonight. But like Coach (David Blatt) said, we didn’t come here to get one game, we came here to get two. Now it’s on to game two and getting prepared for that.”

(On gaining rebounding advantage during the game)
“We have to control the glass. Kyrie Irving said the team that wins the rebounding battle wins the game, so we definitely take pride in it.”

(On how J.R. Smith fits in to what this team does)
“He gives us a scoring punch, especially in these kinds of games when the offense is missing shots. He’s a scorer, and he’s been a scorer in this league for 11 years. He can score in bunches, and that’s what he did tonight…He definitely saved us tonight with his energy and his spark off the bench, but as an offense we’ve got to get better. We had a couple of offensive droughts, and we’ve got to get better, because we know they’re going to make some adjustments.”

I think between tonight and Game 2, the mindset is there are lots of things that we can do better, a few things that we can build on, but there's a stretch early in the fourth quarter where they were able to create a little bit of separation and a lead.  A few things happened during that time that we've got to do better, and I think, if we continue to attack and we continue to play with pace and move the ball better, then I think that's going to give us our best chance going into Game 2.

Any particular information about DeMarre at this point?
At this point, I think the doctors are saying it's a knee sprain.  He'll have an MRI tomorrow, and we'll know more tomorrow.

Given his professional journey, how excited he personally was to be in this series, what are the thoughts among the staff in the locker room about the injury?
Well, he's such a great teammate, everybody's just concerned for DeMarre, and I'm hoping that he's healthy and ready to help us as soon as possible.  That's how we feel about each of our teammates, each of our players. I know there's that same feeling for DeMarre, and it's the playoffs.  So everybody would like him to come through this as healthy as possible.

Coach, quick question, if DeMarre is out, will we probably see more presence of Mike Scott or Mike Muscala as well in Game 2?
DeMarre is a perimeter defender, player. I think, most likely, more Kent Bazemore and some players like that. Mike Scott and Mike Muscala are always ready.  We'll see what we learn tomorrow and figure out what gives us our best chance.

DeMarre is obviously a primary defender on LeBron, but he also led this team in scoring this postseason.  How tough would it be to replace him offensively as well as defensively?
DeMarre is a complete player.  He has a big impact on both ends of the court.  Other people will have opportunities to make defensive plays, to make offensive plays, and that will be a great opportunity and a great challenge.

Mike, did the ball stop moving, or did you stop making shots?  Or was one a function of the other?
I think we'll go back and look at the film, and you always learn more.  Sometimes things aren't as bad as maybe you think initially or sometimes they are.  I think ball movement is critical to us.  Playing unselfishly is critical to us.  Our group understands that.  So if we can improve and get better there, I think it's something we've been doing all year.  So I think it's something they understand.  If that's what we need to do, we'll do it.

Obviously, J.R. Smith got away from you a little bit.  I wonder if your initial impression is whether it's defensive lapses or was he just making shots?  How do you look at that?
Both.  I think it doesn just reflecting back now without having gone through the film, he did make a handful of tough shots, but he's a shooter.  He's somebody that can get hot, and he was a priority coming into the game, and I think we can do a better job and not have any breakdowns going into the next game.

Coach, were you happy with the amount of switching that was occurring in the first half with LeBron?  It seemed like Teague was defending him a lot.
Yeah, you know, every game you have multiple ways that you're going to try to defend pick-and-rolls.  I thought at times it was effective and helped us.  There were a couple of examples where their execution was good.  So I think with any team, with any player, you have to change up your looks, give them a few different looks, and we'll continue to do that going forward.

You guys, in the second quarter, there were a lot of times when they ran the Ky and LeBron pick-and-roll, and you ended up with Teague guarding LeBron down in the post.  They exploited that a fair amount.  Is that something you're going to try going forward, or are you going to try different matchups or different tweaks on that?
Yes, similar to the question prior, I think we'll throw different looks at them.  Like I just said, we've got to give them different looks, and that's the challenge between now and Game 2.

(On the bench stepping up)
“Everybody will (have to step up). It’s a team effort. We just have to learn from this game and make adjustments and get ready for Game 2.”

(On facing Mozgov)
“He’s big. He’s a presence inside. We just have to be mindful and make sure we keep him off the boards as best we can.”

(On DeMarre Carroll)
“He’s a great player, but most importantly, a great guy and a great teammate. Obviously it was really tough to see him go down. We want to be there for him, and hope for the best.”

(On the late comeback)
“When the time starts to dwindle down, your back against the wall, you just start swinging. That’s what we’ve done, and now we know what we’re capable of, chipping into that lead and almost getting back in the game. It gives us some confidence going into Friday.”

(On J.R. Smith getting hot)
“Obviously those were tough ones. I thought we had some momentum there for a while. He came in…give him credit. He’s one of those guys that’s very capable of doing that. Obviously it’s going to be a key to not let that happen again.”

(On drawing from experience of losing the first game of last series)
“We have to look back to that series. We lost Game 1 last time too. We feel like we can play better. We’ll watch the film tomorrow and see what we can do.”

Al, talk about what happened in the third quarter, the run that they were able to go on in the third quarter, what you guys weren't able to do defensively.  And also talk about the injury to DeMarre Carroll and how you guys felt when you saw that.
The third quarter, I mean, I really can't point to anything that we necessarily did wrong.  You've got to give them credit.  They kept executing.  They got hot there scoring the ball.
We have to figure out a way to come out to a quicker start in the third.  We only had 16 points in the third quarter.  So we need to be better there.
As far as DeMarre, we're hoping he's okay.  I'm sure tomorrow he'll get an MRI and things like that, but we're just hoping for the best for D.C.

The last play when Millsap was guarding LeBron, it was like 20, 30 seconds left, LeBron was able to break through and get a dunk.  What happened with that?  Was there a defensive breakdown?  How did he have a wide-open look?
Yeah, it was a breakdown.  The guy went up to set the screen, and Paul and I were supposed to switch it.  Paul was supposed to send it to me.  I was on the other side.  He just went down the middle and just missed coverage there.

Kyle Korver struggled in the last few games to get off from behind the arc.  What can you guys do more to get him open?
That's a good question.  We just got to make sure he gets more looks, meaning through our offense, and we'll have to figure that out.  At the same time, teams are much more aware of him.  Everybody's attention is on him, so they're really making sure that they contest when they get out there. So we just have to keep finding ways to try to get him going again.

What do you think you guys will need to do differently against Tristan Thompson?
You know, we've just got to keep playing our style of ball.  I think tonight, the way we were defending, a lot of us, we had to leave him and Mozgov to go double LeBron or something, and they were able to just pound the glass.  So that's something that I'm sure we'll look at.  We just have to do a better job of boxing out and making sure that we get those rebounds.

CAVALIERS NOTES:

  • The Cavaliers outrebounded the Hawks 49-37 and outscored Atlanta 12-9 in second chance points.
  • Five Cavaliers players scored in double figures: James (31), Smith (28), Thompson (14), Mozgov (10) and Irving (10).
  • LeBron James recorded 31 points (12-26 FG, 0-1 3FG, 7-8 FT), eight rebounds, six assists and one steal in 38 minutes. James has scored 30-or-more points in five games this postseason and 73 times in his playoff career.
  • J.R. Smith posted 28 points (10-16 FG, 8-12 3FG), eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 36 minutes; setting or tying playoff career-highs in points, 3FGM, FGM, defensive rebounds and blocks.