AP Photo
April 04, 2014

Though a potential NBA Finals rematch remains far off, the Cleveland Cavaliers appear well-equipped to counter the defending champions' perimeter prowess if it occurs.

A second consecutive prolific 3-point display has the hot-shooting Cavaliers in position to sweep the Atlanta Hawks for a second straight year entering Sunday's Game 4 of this one-sided Eastern Conference semifinal.

A change in venues didn't at all alter Cleveland's devastating marksmanship from beyond the arc. After hitting an NBA playoff-record 25 3-pointers in 45 attempts during a 123-98 home rout in Wednesday's Game 2, the Cavaliers went 21 of 39 en route to a 121-108 win and a 3-0 series lead Friday at Philips Arena.

After J.R. Smith, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did most of the damage in Game 2, Channing Frye added another element to Cleveland's already formidable offense Friday. The veteran forward finished 7 of 9 from 3 in amassing a playoff career-high 27 points, complementing 24 each from James and Irving and Kevin Love's 21 and 15 rebounds.

The Cavaliers acquired Frye from Orlando at February's trade deadline to bolster their outside shooting, a glaring weakness when ousted by Golden State in last June's Finals. Cleveland shot just 29.3 percent from 3-point range for the six-game series while the Warriors averaged 11.8 3s in their wins.

''We brought him here to shoot,'' James said. ''And shoot and shoot and shoot.''

It's safe to say the Cavaliers have addressed the problem. They're averaging 16.9 3s and a scorching 46.6 percent from distance during this postseason.

"When the ball is moving, we have some great shooters," James said. "When we have great shooting, the ball is popping and it has some energy behind it."

The Hawks simply haven't been able to keep up. They held a 101-93 lead with 9:14 remaining in Game 3, then missed six of their next seven shots as Frye and James led Cleveland on a game-changing 20-3 run.

"For the first three quarters, (we) felt really good about what we had going," center Al Horford said. "I think they just took it to another level in the fourth there. They really just got hot and for us, at the end of the day, if they're shooting it like that, they're going to be unstoppable."

Atlanta did have its best offensive performance of the series, shooting 16 of 34 on 3-pointers and 48.8 percent overall after being held to 39.9 percent in the first two games. Kyle Korver, held to 10 points while starting Games 1 and 2, had five 3s and provided 18 points off the bench.

However, the Hawks were outrebounded 55-28 as Cleveland owned an 18-9 advantage in second-chance points. Horford, who recorded 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting, had just one rebound and was a minus-26 on the court.

Still, a surprising inability to defend the perimeter remains Atlanta's biggest challenge. The Hawks held opponents to 33.8 percent on 3-pointers - sixth-best in the league - during the regular season and limited Boston to 30.7 percent in the opening round.

"There are times when in transition, particularly in the first two games and a little bit (Friday), (defense) was a major problem," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I think that's when they are getting their most open looks."

It's an area the Hawks will need to improve quickly to avoid the same fate as last year, when the Cavaliers swept Atlanta in the East finals.

Cleveland has now won 11 straight playoff games against the Hawks, one shy of matching an NBA record for consecutive postseason victories over a single opponent. The Cavaliers tied the mark with their opening-round sweep of Detroit.

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