LOS ANGELES: The Cleveland Cavaliers fired a record-setting 25 three pointers as they pummeled the Atlanta Hawks 123-98 to seize a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference playoff series on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Cleveland produced 18 first half three pointers which propelled them to a 74-38 halftime lead. JR Smith led the bar-rage from beyond the arc with seven overall as 10 Cleveland players made three pointers in the second round postseason game.
“When he’s making shots, it becomes contagious,” said Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said of Smith.
Dahntay Jones’ three-pointer with 2:24 remaining in the fourth gave Cleveland the all-time record, surpassing the 2009 Orlando Magic and the 2013 Houston Rockets, who each made 23 threes.
Mo Williams added the final three-pointer on the Cavaliers’ next possession.
“We were getting open shots and taking open shots and we were making them,” Lue said.
The Cavaliers also broke the record for most threes in a playoff game of 21, which was set by the Golden State Warriors last month.
The Cavaliers have won their last nine games against the Hawks and all 10 playoff games between the two teams.
The series shifts to Atlanta for game three on Friday and game four on Sunday.
“We will just continue to keep sharing the ball. Our guys have a lot of trust. They trust each other on the defensive end and they trust each other on the offensive end. If a guy is open he knows he is going to get the ball,” Lue said.
Cleveland’s halftime lead of 36 points is the largest in the NBA during a playoff game since 1987. The Cavaliers also led by as many as 41 points in the third quarter.
Lue said he also credited his defence with helping secure the dominating victory.
“Outside of the threes I thought our defence was great,” he said. “That was our best defensive effort in a long time. If we compete and we play great defensively we can get out and run and pretty much get anything we want.”
LeBron James scored 27 points, Smith scored 23 while shooting seven-of-13 from three-point range, and Kyrie Ir-ving had 19 points.
Kevin Love added 11 points and 13 rebounds. Cleveland began the night averaging an NBA-best 14.4 three-pointers.
Despite their success Wednesday, James insists that making threes isn’t their identity.
“We’re not a three-point shooting team. We don’t want to be labeled that,” he said. “We’re a well-balanced team that’s capable of making threes.
“Obviously, we’ve got guys that can knock down shots from the perimetre. It’s been key to our success, but we have to continue to understand that we have to be very balanced offensively.”
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the Cavs’ three-point shooting was a big concern after Cleveland made 15 three-pointers in a game one victory. On Wednesday, Cleveland had 15 three pointers by the second quarter.
Paul Millsap had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta. Jeff Teague scored 14 points and Kris Humphries had 12.