ATLANTA — For a second consecutive outing, LeBron James methodically dissected a cluster of defenders who weren’t up for the solo challenge of stopping a four-time MVP.
For a second consecutive outing, the Cavaliers relied on the long-range largesse of an unheralded, but streaky shooting guard.
And once again, Cleveland brought sustained pockets of silence to a Philips Arena crowd that may be more shocked than disgusted by another disappointing performance from Atlanta.
Put it all together, and you have the tent-pole rationale behind the Cavaliers’ 94-82 win over the Hawks in Game 2, a road thumping which now gives Cleveland a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Just like Wednesday’s series opener, the Hawks and Cavaliers exchanged baskets for the majority of the first half; and just like that night, the Cavaliers were equal parts menacing and maniacal when pulling away from a seemingly overmatched Hawks club.
Which brings us back to LeBron: His stat line of 30 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds reads like a guy who grabbed control of the action from the outset — and that’s exactly what happened.
This is why James has been part of the Eastern Conference finals for five consecutive years; and this is why he’s looking like a sure bet for his fifth consecutive berth in the NBA Finals.
In short, we’re talking about a man on a mission — regardless of which teammates are available to suit up.
On Wednesday, the Cavaliers had a co-hero in J.R. Smith, who came off the bench to score 28 points and bury eight triples.
On Friday, Iman Shumpert played "Robin" to LeBron’s "Batman," scoring 16 points and connecting on 4 of 6 three-pointers. Of equal relevance, the Georgia Tech product had an absurd on-court ratio of plus-27.
Atlanta struggled mightily from beyond the arc, making just 6 of 16 three-pointers. As part of that misery, no Hawks starter scored more than 12 points (a three-way tie involving Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Al Horford).
In fact, reserve Dennis Schroder led the club — at 13 points in just 12 minutes.
For the Hawks, it’s likely do-or-die time for Sunday’s Game 3 in Cleveland. No team in NBA history has ever rallied back from an 0-3 series deficit … and that’s certainly not happening on LeBron’s watch.
In fact, in LeBron’s postseason history (best-of-7 series), he has never lost when holding a 2-0 lead.