CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Cleveland Cavaliers are facing an identity crisis of sorts.
They made more three-pointers in a game on Wednesday than any other team in National Basketball Association history, yet Cavs star LeBron James insists they are not a three-point shooting team.
Regardless of labels, at their current rate, Cleveland are legitimate threats to win their first NBA title.
James scored 27 points and the Cavs made 25 three-pointers to pound the Atlanta Hawks 123-98 on Wednesday and take a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven play-off series will be played today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) in Atlanta.
Ten Cavs made three-pointers, led by J.R. Smith with seven.
Dahntay Jones' corner three-pointer with 2min 24sec left gave the Cavs the all-time record, surpassing the 2009 Orlando Magic and the 2014 Houston Rockets, who each made 23 treys in a game.
The Cavs finished 25-for-45 from long range and are now averaging 16.2 three-pointers per play-off game, easily the most of any team this year. However, James insists it is not their identity.
"We're not a three-point shooting team. We don't want to be labelled that," he said. "We're a well-balanced team that's capable of making threes.
"Obviously, we've got guys that can knock down shots from the perimeter. It's been key to our success, but we have to continue to understand that we have to be very balanced offensively."
The Cavs' 18 three-pointers in the first half also set a record. The long-range assault carried Cleveland to a 74-38 half-time lead - the largest in the NBA during a play-off game since 1987. The Cavs led by as many as 41 in the third quarter.
Smith scored 23, and Kyrie Irving had 19 points. Kevin Love added 11 points and 13 rebounds.
"For the last month and a half, that's pretty much the way we've been playing," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "We've been sharing the basketball, playing at a high tempo, moving bodies."
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said the Cavs' three-point shooting was a huge concern after Cleveland made 15 three-pointers in their Game 1 victory. This time, the Cavs made their 15th three-pointer in the second quarter.
"If they shoot the ball like that," Hawks guard Kyle Korver said, "I don't know if anyone can beat them, to be honest."
Even the Cavaliers' mascot Moondog got in on the fun, banking in a half-court shot over his head during the second half.
The game got so out of hand in the second quarter, the Hawks' official Twitter account could not help but make light of the situation.
"If you take away their 3's we're right in this..." the Hawks tweeted.
Paul Millsap had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta. Jeff Teague scored 14 points and Kris Humphries had 12. Starters for both sides sat out the fourth quarter.
The Cavs have won their last nine games against the Hawks and all 10 post-season games between the two teams.
Now the Hawks have to scramble to save what is left of their season after losing the first two games of this series by double figures. They were swept by the Cavs last year in the conference finals.
"Obviously, they're shooting it unbelievably well," Budenholzer said. "They're obviously a team that's put together well, and we're going to have to be very good to change it." REUTERS