Mike Woodson may be done in Atlanta. It's probably time.

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woodson.jpgEmbarrassing.

What has happened to the Atlanta Hawks in the last three games is embarrassing. Not so much the game three loss — Milwaukee had the energy of the home crowd, made some adjustments, shot well and got the win. The Bucks are a solid, well coached team. It happens. But three straight losses?

In game four, Atlanta made no countermoves, the Bucks just kept doing what they wanted, getting the matchups they wanted. Atlanta lost. In game five, few changes again. The Hawks can’t seem to recognize and exploit their mismatches, and even when they do they don’t stick with it. Wednesday night that was combined by the Hawks ability to choke away leads and become predictable — and defensible — at the end of games. And there you have another loss.

And it’s got to fall on coach Mike Woodson. The adjustments. The end of game problems that have been there all season. The team that doesn’t execute under pressure. Some of it — most of it? — falls on Mike Woodson.

After five year’s on the job in the ATL Woodson’s contract is up this summer. Tim Potvak at FanHouse suggested this might be the end of the line for him. It is time for the Hawks — if they really want to be contenders — to make changes, including on the bench. Some personnel changes are needed as well (getting a good perimeter defender, for one) but this team needs a shakeup in attitude.

Woodson has been good on the franchise on the whole over five years. This is not some Eddie Jordan unmitigated disaster, the Hawks have consistently won more games each year than the year before for all five of his seasons. He has tried to let the athletic Hawks players be themselves. He has helped build a foundation in Atlanta.

But what happened at the end of game five was a microcosm of what has been holding the Hawks back. In the final five minutes, they stop executing. Their offense becomes a stagnant series of isolation plays with no ball or player movement to speak of. The Hawks have great athletes, but in crunch time they become a bunch of individual athletes rather than a team of athletes. The isolations are easier to defend, the shots don’t fall.

The Hawks are a team whose defense should create turnovers, should have the Hawks out and running and finishing on the break. They don’t — they were 16th in the league in creating turnovers. This is an average defensive team that does not play to its strengths often enough.

On defense, they hide the lack of a good perimeter defender by switching all picks, and letting Josh Smith and Al Horford show how athletic they are on the wings. The Bucks have taken advantage of this, getting the switch then clearing out an isolation because Horford and Smith can’t hang with Brandon Jennings or John Salmons 20 feet from the hoop. They have been doing it since game three. And the Hawks have done…. nothing about it. They keep getting burned, the Bucks keep winning.

When the game got tight late in game five, both teams hustled, to use the cliche both teams played hard. But only one team understood how to execute under pressure. The Scott Skiles coached team.

Woodson is not a bad coach. He’s not. But it’s time for a change. The Hawks have dreams of being listed in the class of Cleveland and Orlando. If that’s going to happen there need to be some changes.

Among them is at coach.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.