The Cleveland Cavaliers came into Atlanta tonight on a hot streak and left Philips Arena with a 121-114 victory over the now 4-17 Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta was without starting center Dewayne Dedmon (left tibia stress reaction) and forward Mike Muscala (and backup point guard Malcolm Delaney (DNP) The Atlanta Hawks still had leading scorer Dennis Schroder, Marco Belinelli and what seemed to be a rejuvenated Ersan Ilyasova and the game was close throughout.
It’s too bad The Cavaliers, who were 7-3 on the road before tonight’s game (and 7-4 at home with one of those losses coming from the Hawks) and most importantly on a nine-game win streak (now 10), still had Lebron James, Kevin Love and a host of three-point shooters. The Cavaliers finished the game 18-39 from behind the three-point line, the Hawks were 12-31 from that distance and that seemed to make all the difference down the stretch. “It was a team win,” said Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue after the game. “Jeff played great tonight, Kevin played great, Lebron played great. The Hawks are always a tough matchup for us.”
Cavs defeat Hawks 121-144 Thursday night at Philips Arena
Down 99-90 at the end of the third quarter, Atlanta could have folded like the other teams enthralled in the Cavaliers win streak, instead they fought back to pull within five points at the 8:27 mark on baskets by Ilyasova and Deandre Bembry. Ilyasova his a double-pump corner three-pointer with a Cavaliers defender in his face and Bembry converted a steal that forced a Cleveland timeout. The Cavs would be ahead by seven points minutes later and again the Hawks would find a way to score, this time on free throws by Schroder. Just like through the early part of what many are calling a rebuilding season for Atlanta, this team keeps on fighting.
Behind 113-110 with 2:48 to play in the game, Ilyasova converted a pair of free throws to bring the Hawks within a point. Then Lebron James and Kenn Love happened. The pound-for-pound best player on planet Earth had 24 points, 12 assist (against only three turnovers) and six rebounds on only 11 shot attempts (he made his first seven shots of the game). There were monster blocked shots (he had two of those, one on Taurean Prince that looked more like it belonged on a volleyball court), big dunks and clutch three-pointers like the one he hit with the Cavs up 113-112 with less than two minutes in the game. Love who dominated the first half of the game with 12 points and nine rebounds, finished the game with 25 points (4-9 from three) and 16 rebounds.
The Hawks kept the game close and a lot of that has to do with Schroder’s 27 points (11-19 FG) but also from the huge game 22 point game from Ilyasova off the bench. Marco Belinelli added 18 points off the bench and the Cavaliers were again just a little better as they got 19 points from future hall of famer Dwayne Wade off their bench as well as some clutch play from reserve forward Jeff Green (12 points, 4-4 FTs). Schroder was guarded by James down the stretch. “The best player in the world tries to guard you, tries to stop you but all that matters is the win,” said Schroder. “I think they played great, we competed but you have to give them credit tonight, they played great.” The loss of Dedmon hurt the already horrible rebounding numbers for the Hawks as they were again out rebounded, this time 40-29.
Atlanta travels to Brooklyn to play the Nets on Sat., Dec. 2 before hosting the same team on Mon., Dec. 4.