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Smith, James lead Cavs over Hawks in Game 1

May 21, 2015 - 4:19 AM Atlanta, GA ( - J.R. Smith set a franchise postseason record for 3-pointers and the Cavaliers opened the Eastern Conference finals with a road win over the Hawks.

Smith buried eight 3s and scored 28 points and LeBron James had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Cleveland beat Atlanta 97-89 in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

Jeff Teague scored 27 points to lead Atlanta, but the Hawks lost starting forward DeMarre Carroll to a left knee injury in the fourth quarter.

James led the way for No. 2-seeded Cleveland despite early foul trouble, but it was Smith's long-range shooting that fueled several key surges.

His 3s came in bunches, including three in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter to help the Cavs build an 18-point lead. He broke James' old franchise record for 3s in a postseason game by one.

"Those who know J.R. know when he gets hot, he gets smoking hot," said Cavs coach David Blatt. "He was terrific. Probably overlooked is how well he defended and that he got eight rebounds."

Tristan Thompson added 14 points and 10 rebounds in the win and Kyrie Irving, who is battling tendinitis in his left knee, had 10 points and six assists in 27 minutes.

Al Horford had 16 points, Paul Millsap scored 13 and Kent Bazemore chipped in with 10 off the bench for the top-seeded Hawks.

Carroll had to be helped off the floor after tweaking his left leg on a drive in the final minutes. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the initial diagnosis was a left knee sprain but that the team will know more after Carroll has an MRI on Thursday.

"Everyone's concerned for DeMarre," Budenholzer said. "Hopefully he's healthy and able to help us."

Game 2 is Friday in Atlanta.

James picked up two fouls in the first nine minutes but finished 12-of-26 in 38 minutes to raise his scoring average to 27.4 points in seven career Game 1s in the conference finals.

He has played in five East finals in a row -- the past four with Miami -- and six of the last seven, including Cleveland's last two appearances in 2007 and 2009.

The Cavs, coming off wins over Boston and Chicago, ended Atlanta's three-game winning streak.

The Hawks had won the last three to eliminate Washington in the semifinals, the first time the team won two playoff series since capturing the only NBA title in franchise history as the St. Louis Hawks in 1958.

Wednesday's game marked the first time the Hawks played in the round before the NBA Finals since 1970, when it only took one series win to get there.

They cooled off after a hot start to shoot 44 percent, including just 4-of-23 on 3-pointers. Bazemore led a late 10-0 run that trimmed Cleveland's lead from 14 to four with under a minute to play, but James followed with a dunk and scored four straight points to help the Cavs hold on.

James limped a bit in the third quarter -- he rolled his left ankle in Game 4 against the Bulls -- but Smith helped carry the Cavs, hitting back-to-back 3s to give them an eight-point lead.

His 3s at the start of the fourth quarter helped extend their lead from seven to a game-high 18 points with under 10 minutes remaining.

"He made shots with hands in his face," said Teague. "You have to tip your hat to him."

Atlanta shot better than 61 percent in the first quarter and James sat out the final 3:04 after picking up his second foul.

The Hawks led by as many as nine, but the Cavs came back to take the lead in the second quarter after Smith buried a trio of 3s in the first four minutes.

James scored 14 points in the quarter but Bazemore buried a long jumper from the left side at the halftime buzzer to tie the score for Atlanta at 51.

Game Notes

James made seven 3-pointers against Washington in Game 4 of the 2006 quarterfinals ... Atlanta went 3-1 against Cleveland in the regular season, winning the last 3 games ... The Cavs outrebounded the Hawks 49-37 ... James' teams are 3-4 in Eastern Conference finals Game 1s ... Timofey Mozgov had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland ... The Hawks are making their eighth consecutive postseason appearance ... The Cavs are 1-3 all-time in the conference finals.