(Reuters) - The Atlanta Hawks keep finding new ways to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers and they seem to have no clue how to arrest their free-fall.
Time and again, whether by blowout or late-game heroics, at home or on the road, Atlanta have managed to end up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
After dropping Friday's contest to the Cavs 121-108, to fall into a 3-0 best-of-seven series hole, Atlanta have now lost 10 consecutive games to the LeBron James-led side. The Hawks exited their home Philips Arena still scrambling to find answers against Cleveland.
"At this point, we have to make some changes, because what we’ve done hasn’t worked," Atlanta big man Al Horford told reporters.
The problem is that the Hawks have made changes but it has only taken them on a different route to the same result.
When the Cavs swept past Atlanta in last year's Eastern Conference Finals it came on the back of James' dominance as he averaged 30.1 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists.
This time around the Hawks have seen Cleveland’s supporting players outplay them. Sharpshooters J.R. Smith and Channing Frye have caught fire in this series foiling Atlanta's defensive game plan.
"If you make a small mistake they can make you pay,” said Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer. "If somebody is open they find him. Right now that guy is shooting it at a high percentage."
The Cavs rained down an NBA-record 25 three-pointers in a Game Two rout, after which Hall of Famer and television analyst Charles Barkley suggested the Hawks should "take out" one of Cleveland’s players to send a physical message.
Atlanta did not take that approach in Game Three but they did make a lineup adjustment by starting Thabo Sefolosha instead of Kyle Korver, hoping for a spark.
The result was that the Hawks lost a fourth-quarter lead, just as they did in the series opener, and were again doomed.
"We’re fighting for our playoff lives right now,” Horford said. "They keep shooting it like that and they’ll be unstoppable. We'll see."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)