by Lang Whitaker

ATLANTA — Yes we can…or maybe we can’t. I’m here in the ATL for what looks to be Game 8 of LeBron’s epic romp through the 2009 postseason. Game 3 was ridiculous — the Hawks kept it close for three quarters, and then LeBron sprinted away with it. The Hawks seemed shellshocked after Game Three, but tonight they were pretty loose in the locker room pregame, cracking jokes and spending most of the time making fun of Hawks sideline reporter James “Big Country” Verrett’s military-inspired ensemble. (Josh Smith told him he should dress like me. Ha!)

How prepared have the Cavs been? Well, they didn’t even practice yesterday — they had media availability at their hotel yesterday. And I’m sure they had a meeting where they just talked about making sure to get the ball to whoever Mike Bibby is guarding.

We’re about to tip-off here. Bron just nailed an over-the-head shot from halfcourt. So I guess he’s ready. Let’s do this!

• National Anthem is performed by The Zac Brown Band, who look like the cast of “The Hangover” — I think Zach Galifianakis (sp?) is singing baritone.

FIRST QUARTER
• Hawks have their starting lineup intact for only the second time in the playoffs — Joe, Bibby, Horford, Smoove and Marvin Williams. Marv was particularly upset after Game 3 and seemed to want his chance at defending LeBron. Be careful what you wish for, my friend.

• Refs tonight are Ron Garretson, Scott Foster and James Capers…about the most anonymous crew the NBA could send.

• FWIW, Mike Brown told me pregame that his 12-year-old reads a lot of Ranger Rick.

• Cleveland opens with an airball from Delonte West that Varejao grabs and kicks to Mo Williams for a 3. Bibby misses a jumper, and James Capers calls LeBron for a walk. Bron responds with back to back dunks, putting Cleveland ahead 7-2. Josh Smith hits a jumper (!) to make it 7-4. Bibby’s getting his pocket picked like a tourist in Times Square, and West gets a dunk. Josh gets a runner goaltended by Varejao and Bron hits a three. 12-6, Cleveland.

• Varejao wpes a Smoove jumper and Joe gets his first basket of the night. Marv misses another jumper then gets a dunk. 12-10, Clevalnd, 6:29 to go. Hawks are active on defense, getting their hands on a lot of passes, but Cleveland’s getting lots of loose balls. Time out, Cleveland up 13-10 with 5:27 to go. LeBron with 7, Josh with 6.

• Out of the TO the Cavs try the same alley-oop play for Bron they ran in Game 3 and Marv read it and knocked it away. On the other end the Hawks run a play for Smoove along the baseline, and he gets fouled by Varejao. Good, good. 13-12, Cavs.

• Bron misses a jumper over Marv, Horfor rebounds and Bibby fires up an airball. Ilgauskas pump fakes like a robot and it works. Joe scores on the other end. Flip Murray and Mo Evans in for ATL, Sasha Pavlovic in for Cleveland. Mo Evans misses a three but Smoove gets the rebound (over Varejao’s back) and puts it in to give ATL the lead, 16-15.

• Za! Za! Pachuuuuuulia! is in. Joe misses a gimme off a screen and Flip grabs the board and drives to the rim for a foul. Timeout, Hawks up 16-15 with 2:56 to go.

• BTW, saw Star Trek last night and thought it was dope. I never even watched the TV show, but if you have even a vague knowledge of the characters the movie’s pretty great.

• Flip to the line and he hits both, Atlanta up 18-15.

• Hawks double Bron and leave Joe Smith open for the three, which he misses. Zaza misses a layup, Flip gets a steal and Zaza gets a dunk. Wawaweewa!

• Hawks up 20-15, and Delonte West tries to go one on one against Josh Smith. Joe Smith holds Zaza going for the rebound, and Zaza goes to the line. Hits both. Hawks up 22-15. Bron drives and misses a layup, and Flip misses a three on the other end.

• Boobie Gibson in the game for a nip of PT.

• Bron misses a three over Marv. Cavs are doing a lot of standing around on offense and going one-on-one. Mario West checks in, as does the corpse of Ben Wallace. Mario immediately strips LeBron on a drive. Joe holds for the last shot of the quarter, almost turns it over, gets it back and misses a jumper.

• And that’s it for the first quarter: Hawks lead 22-15. This is the Hawks’ biggest lead of the series, according to my statistician John Hollinger, sitting next to me.

SECOND QUARTER
• Joe misses a jumper to start the second. He’s gotta go 48 tonight, methinks.

• Wally Sexyback dives on the floor for a loose ball and calls a timeout. With both hands. So he wasn’t holding the ball, was he? Whatever. Timeout, Cleveland. They make it a full timeout, which seems strange 36 seconds into the second quarter.

• I wish the Hawks timekeeper could somehow end the game right now.

• Delonte West nails a three out of the TO. 22-18, Hawks. Joe misses over a double-team. Here we go! Ben Wallace to the line! First shot is all rim. Second shot is…all rim.

• Marv drives on Sexyback, who bodies him out of the paint and Marv misses the runner. Zaza gets the rebound and kind of flops his way to the foul line. Good…good. that’s 6 and 2 for Zaza in 5 minutes.

• Delonte West drives and hits. Hawks miss. Sexyback gets free and Flip gives a foul. Mo Evans in for Marv. Joe Smith gets free on the baseline for two. Zaza misses a 16-footer. Hawks lead 24-22.

• Cleveland finds Sexyback inside with Bibby posted and Sexyback scores easily. Mo Williams collides with Josh Smith and the foul goes on Mo.Bibby shoots an airball. Wally Sexyback drives, takes 7 steps and dunks. Cavs go ahead 26-24, and Mike Woodson calls for a timeout with 7:25 to go. The Hawks don’t have a field goal this quarter.

• This arena is full but the crowd is pretty quiet, like they don’t want to piss LeBron off. I can’t blame ‘em. Hawks come back with Smoove, Bibby, Horford, Evans and Flip. Cavs have Bron, Joe Smith, West, Sexyback and the corpse of Ben Wallace.

• Horfrod shoots an airball wide open from 15. Cleveland turns it over and Flip drives on LeBron, gets knocked down (no call) and scores. On the other end, LeBron gets bumped as he’s shooting and misses the shot, and Scott foster calls the foul about 6 seconds later, when Bibby is pushing the ball the other way. It was a foul, but call it when it happens, please. Bron makes 1 of 2.

• Z checks in and hits a baseline J. Flip tries to take Sexyback again and misses a second jumper. Z misses a long jumper, ATL pushes in transition and Joe hits a midrange J. Cavs up 29-28.

• Wally Sexyback drives, gets caught in the air, falls out of bounds and then picks up a T. Mo Williams, please check in for Mr. Sexyback.

• LeBron drives in and Horford fouls him. Marvin checks in for Flip, who’s not playing well tonight. Bron hits both and Cleveland leads 31-28.

• Josh drives, pump fakes and Ronnie Garretson calls a foul on LeBron, who can’t believe it. Josh nails both free throws — he’s shooting FTs  way better in the Playoffs than in the regular season (he shot like 58 pct).

• Marv drives and gets fouled. Makes both. Hawks go ahead 32-31 with 3:52 to go.

• Bron drives and misses a lay-up. Three different Hawks guarded him on that play. Cleveland gets the ball back, works it around finds Z wide open for a dunk. And you know he had to be wide open if he dunked. Joe Johnson works inside and dishes to Smoove for a layup. Bron gets an open layup, and Horford airballs another 15 footer. Timeout on the floor with 2:24 to go, timeout with the score Cleveland 35, Atlanta 34.

• Hey, A-Town Dancers, I like the Mr. Collipark dance routine.

• Hawks are 12-13 from the free throw line thus far. Josh with 14 and 5, and Bron with 12 and 2.

• Out of the timeout the Cavs turn it over, and then, for some reason, Delonte West gives a foul on Josh Smith in the open court. smoove to the line…good, good. Hawks up 36-35.

• While Mo Williams dribbles out front, Mike Bibby draws one of his patented fouls while setting a pick. Josh Smith celebrates it with a brick from 17 feet.

• Bron comes back and the Cavs find Z alone in the corner, where he nails the three. He’s deadly out there, but when he’s in the Cavs run an almost completely perimeter offense.

• Joe Johnson bulls into the lane and hits a runner. Bron comes back and the ball is loose and LeBron appears to run about three steps out of bounds. He gets the ball back and fidns Z inside and Bibby fouls him. Josh Smith picks up a T for pointing out to Scott Foster that players aren’t allowed to run out of bounds. Sexyback misses the T, and then Z misses both FTs.

• Halftime, Cavs up 40-38. Hawks are 14-15 from the line and Cleveland’s 6-13. Mike Bibby? Zero points, zero assists.

THIRD QUARTER
• Second half starts with Horford picking up an offensive foul and then Bron nailing a long two. They trade misses, then Joe hits Horford for a brick along the baseline. Al and Bibby are a combined 0-7. The Hawks bench is a combined 2-10. Except for Josh and Joe, the Hawks are 3-23.

• Bron backs up to halfcourt, Z sets a pick, and Bron zooms to the basket for a dunk. Yeesh. Cavs up 45-38 with 8:03 to go in the third.

• Kiss cam! Ends with Ben Wallace and Darnell Jackson. They do not kiss.

• Out of the TO the Cavs run the same play, but reversed, and Bron hits Mo Williams int he corner for a three.

• Flip Murray finally scores and the Hawks cut it to 48-40.

• Ilgauskas runs a little Moses Malone and tips it to himself a dozen times before scoring.

• Joe Johnson gets inside and scores, and one. Hawks cut it to 52-46.

• Bron comes off a Z screen and Z flattens Marvin. that foul is offensive, Zydrunis Ilgauskas. Josh Smith scores on the other end, then grabs a defensive rebound and gets fouled by Mo Williams. The crowd is finally getting into the game and the Hawks bench guys are all standing.

• Joe Johnson with a floater, Hawks cut it to 52-50 with 4:27 to go in the third. They’re hanging around…just like they did in Game 3.

• Some guy from “Meet The Browns” comes out on the floor during the timeout and dances with Harry the Hawk, and the crowd seems to love it. I’m completely flabbergasted.

• Out of the TO, LeBron misses a long two. Joe isos on Sexyback and either got fouled or shot an airball from 2 feet. delonte West drives and gets his shot smacked off the glass but a foul is called. Hawks get a miss and Cavs miss but Varejao grabs his 8th board. Zaza then misses back to back layups, and as the Cavs run down on offense Varejao picks up a T. Flip hits the FT.

• Bron hits West for a reverse, then Zaza tips a ball in and gets a delay of game warning.

• Bron then drives in for an open layup and Zaza literally fouls the headband off him. Good foul, as Bron misses the first, makes the second. Cleveland up 56-53. Flip misses a three at the shot clock buzzer. Bron then hits Sexyback, who is open because Mo Evans is busy yelling at Josh Smith, for a two. The refs review it and a bunch of cops come over to keep the players away from the refs, which is strange. Would they arrest a player if he refused to go back to the huddle?

• OK, Hawks ball with 1:09 left in the 3rd and Hawks down 58-53. Josh drives and draws a foul on Joe Smith. Smoove makes 1 of 2.

• Bron drives and gets his shot swatted by Josh Smith, and Scott Foster whistles another late call for a foul on Zaza. bron makes 1 of 2.

• Hawks swing the ball around and hit Josh on the baseline, he drives and picks up a foul on Sexyback. Josh misses the first…makes the second.

• Cavs up 59-55 with 26 seconds left. Bron isos on Joe, switches to Flip, then calmly drains a three over him. Flip hits a runner at the end of the third. So after three, Cleveland leads 62-57. Bibby played just 3 minutes that quarter, and the Hawks managed to keep it close. Hollinger points out that he, myself and Hawks.com editor Micah Hart have combined for as many points as Horford, Bibby and Mo Evans.

FOURTH QUARTER
• Bron dives to the rim and misses a layup and Smoove comes right back for a layup. then the Hawks force a 24 sec violation. Marv drives and his shot gets smothered by Joe Smith. Bron finds West in the corner and he drives and dunks on Marvin Williams. He was ugly. I mean, that was ugly.Then Joe comes right back and draws and and one against the Corpse of Ben Wallace. 64-62, Cleveland.

• Joe misses a three, Mo Williams misses a three, and Josh Smith gets his pocket picked at midcourt. West hits a driving layup and makes it 66-62.

• Mike Bibby checks back in with 8:54 to go. He’s been on the bench most of this half, I’m assuming, because he’s such a defensive liability. It’s nice that Mike Woodson finally recognized this, though it’s a little concerning that it took Woody 93 games to figure this out.

• Out of the TO, Smoove misses a layup and them Mo Williams gets an offensive foul. Flip Murray then misses a shot from the wing and the Hawks force another 24 second violation on Cleveland (thanks to an airball from Bron). Josh misses a jumper on the baseline (the whole arena shouted No!) and Mo Williams walks. 66-62, Cleveland. Flip misses another runner.

• 6:56 to go in the game. Delonte West finds LeBron open for a three. (Well, Bibby was supposed to have him but he lost him.) bibby has now played 25 minutes with 0 points, 0 assists and 3 fouls. 6:24 left int he game and Cleveland leads 69-62.

• On Twitter just now Shawn Marion just wroteMan its amazing how cavs run a pick and roll everytime down the floor and atlanta just iso’s.” Thanks, Shawn. Rub it in, why don’t you.

• The stands are on their feet. Out of the timeout, Joe drives into a double-team and turns it over. Awesome. Nice play, Woody.

• Z gets fouled, to the line. Miss and make. Cleveland’s 11-23 from the line.

• The Hawks finally score but Mo Williams fouls Bibby away from the ball. And then Bibby drains a three. Huge shot. 70-65. Cleveland.

• Z misses a jumper and Smoove rebounds. Flip goes inside to Zaza, who draws the foul. Two shots…miss and make. 70-66, Cleveland, 5:00 to go.

• Delonte West drains a three with Flip Murray in his face. Cleveland’s 8-15 from three. Flip Murray drives and misses. Seriously, we’re running plays for Flip Murray with the game on the line.

• Bron misses a three over Bibby, and then Bibby misses a three, then Flip misses a three, then Joe misses a three. Sigh. hawks are 2-11 on three tonight. Cleveland is 8-16.

• Hawks force another 24 second violation on Cleveland. A Let’s go hawks! chant starts. Smoove hits a baseline J. 73-68, Cleveland. Mo Williams nails a three from the corner. LeBron runs over Zaza on a pick and gets his second foul! This is the first game of the Playoffs that LeBron’s had two fouls.

• Timeout, Cavs up 76-68 with 2:35 to go.

• Out of the timeout, Josh drives and gets hacked by Varejao. Josh makes the first and Cleveland calls a timeout. Odd.

• Out of the timeout, Josh makes the second. He’s 10-12 form the line tonight which is remarkable. Hawks pick up fullcourt and immediately force a steal from West. He fouls Flip Murray, which sends him to the line. Flip makes the first…and teh second. 76-72, Cavs. 2:14 to go.

• Bron catches left wing, drives into the lane, gets fouled by Zaza and makes the shot. To the line…good. 79-72. Two minutes to go.

• Bron picks up his third foul and sends Joe Johnson to the line. Man, Cleveland is keeping Atlanta in this. Joe makes the first…and second. 79-74.

• Bron catches left wing, drives, misses but gets it back. He drives again, misses and Z gets it. Then, with 1:01 left, Joe picks up a foul. Bron inbounds, gets it back, draws the double and hits Mo Williams for an open three. 82-74, 52 seconds left. And the fans head for the exits.

• Joe misses a three. West hits two free throws to make it 84-74 with 34 seconds left. It’s o-vah. Cleveland wins it in four, 84-74.

• I’m heading for the locker room. More on the Hawks and Cavs tomorrow from back in the Dome.