Channing Frye Shows Cavaliers Are on Another Level When Big 3 Get Help

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterMay 7, 2016

ATLANTA,GA - MAY 6 :  Channing Frye #9 and J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers are pumped up after the win against the Atlanta Hawks during the Eastern Conference Semifinals Game Three on May 6, 2016 at The Philips Arena in Atlanta Georgia NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Already down 2-0 to the Cleveland Cavaliers following a 123-98 domination, the Atlanta Hawks spent Game 3 getting out of the oven and straight into the Frye-ing pan.

Led by reserve big man Channing Frye's team-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, Cleveland took a 3-0 lead by swamping the Hawks 121-108.

Frye's outburst capped off what's been a string of strong performances by those not named LeBron James, Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving, proving that the Cavaliers' Big Three have plenty of help in their pursuit of a title.

 

Frye's Big Night

Cleveland is the only NBA team yet to lose this postseason, led primarily by their offensive firepower and historic three-point shooting. While some of the main cogs like Irving are putting up video-game numbers (73.3 percent from three vs. Hawks), other role players have fed off his presence to create their own open looks.

Perhaps no performance has been as impressive as Frye's Game 3, one that he may have predicted months ago.

"Just like I was telling someone the other day, listen, it may not be now, it may not be for the next 10 games, but there's going to be a time where I'm going to go out there and help win a game or two and that's why I'm here," Frye told Bleacher Report on March 5, shortly after his trade from the Orlando Magic.

On Friday, he scored more than any one of the Big Three, netting his 27 points on 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. While impressive, and a good sign for Cleveland, this alone likely wouldn't have willed victory. But when you consider it came in conjunction with James' 24 points, Irving's 24 and Love's 21, the Cavs become a team that can do damage from all over the roster.

In addition to his scoring boost, Frye received more playing time than usual in Game 3 (28:08), due to Atlanta's strategy of fouling Tristan Thompson. Instead of simply forcing Thompson and his nonstop motor to the bench, it opened up a two-headed offensive monster with Frye and Love.

"Channing's an excellent three-point shooter," head coach Tyronn Lue said, via NBA TV's postgame broadcast. "I thought the lineup with Channing and Kevin really gave them problems because it opened up the floor for Kyrie and LeBron to get to the basket. If their bigs help, then Kevin and Channing will be wide open for shots. Channing did a great job of taking his shots, and he made them tonight."

 

The Stupendous Six

Cleveland is getting significant help from the rest of its rotation as well.

J.R. Smith, once overlooked and disregarded in New York, has become a locked-in starter between Irving and James. His shooting and athleticism have already forced Atlanta into a lineup change, as it swapped sharpshooter Kyle Korver for the defensive-minded Thabo Sefolosha in Game 3.

Against Atlanta, Smith is averaging 13.7 points while scorching the net with 53.8 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from deep. He's the ultimate catch-and-shoot assassin, needing but an inch of space to launch a shot. His plus/minus rating in the series is plus-16.7, second only to James' plus-19.0, per NBA.com.

Smith may be the most flamboyant shooter, but he's far from the only successful one. Cleveland's record 25 three-pointers in Game 2 were followed up by a cool 21 in Game 3. As a team, they're shooting 46.6 percent from deep, which would be the second-highest mark in NBA playoff history, should it hold.

Frye is converting at a 58.8 percent rate from three this postseason. Veteran Richard Jefferson is 7-of-14 (50 percent). Even Iman Shumpert, heralded for his defense, has been good for 44.4 percent and will occasionally come up with plays like this:

The rest of Cleveland's rotation is far from just shooters, of course. Thompson has once again dominated Atlanta on the glass. During Game 3 alone, he had more offensive rebounds (nine) than the entire Atlanta team (six). His 11.3 boards per game in the series is more than any Hawk.

Off to a 7-0 start to the playoffs, the Cavaliers still have room to improve and options to deploy.

Matthew Dellavedova's shooting has dropped off, although he carries an on/off rating of plus-17.6. At some point, Timofey Mozgov could be called upon against bigger opponents. Mo Williams and James Jones are also available to hit shots when needed.

"Myself, Kyrie and Kevin can't step on the floor by ourselves," James said, via NBA TV. "We need the other two starters and the other eight, 10 guys on the roster and beyond that to do their jobs and they allow us to do our jobs.

"We're a team that's destined for greatness. I really believe that. We have a mission."

Steamrolling through the Eastern Conference playoffs, James and his fellow stars are getting the help they need.

 

Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @CavsGregBR.

Quotes obtained firsthand unless cited. Stats via Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.