Photo: Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer
You don’t even have to look at the calendar; you can just tell that the Cavaliers have an entirely different attitude in the final lap of the regular season. For the second straight game, the Cavs faced a potential second round opponent, and once again, the team finished strong in the final minutes to pull out a tight victory. Tonight, it was Cleveland’s domination of the boards and the fourth quarter freeze they placed on the Hawks for the third straight meeting this year that took them to win number sixty. In addition to reaching the sixty win mark, the wine and gold also clinched homecourt throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs with help from San Antonio beating the Magic tonight. The magic number for the number one overall seed is now just one with two chances to clinch it on Sunday afternoon.
Without arguably their top two rebounding presences, one would figure the Cavs were in trouble down low against the athletic, physical, offensive rebound-minded Hawks. But, the Cavaliers have had each other’s backs all season long, so J.J. Hickson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas really answered the call for their injured fellow big men in this one. Hickson posted a career-high 16 rebounds to go with his 8 points and 2 blocks, while Z had 5 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists in 27 minutes. I mention the minutes, because many, myself included, surmised that the big guy would be playing about half of those minutes against the fast-pace driven Hawks. Instead, Z played within himself and gave the Cavaliers some seriously productive minutes. Let’s not overlook LeBron James’s rebounding display, grabbing 13 of his own. In all, the rebounding numbers were in Cleveland’s favor by a shocking 55-36. The Cavs also picked up 14 offensive boards with half of them coming from Hickson.