Wrap-Up — Sometimes it seems like the Cavaliers need to make things more difficult than they need to be.
After running off four straight wins – including a huge road victory in Boston on Wednesday that put them on the precipice of locking up the East’s top spot – the Wine and Gold fell at home, 114-100, to a Hawks team playing without its four best players.
The Cavaliers could have reduced their magic number to one with a win over the team they’ve beaten on 12 of the previous 13 occasions – including Playoffs. And those teams featured Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder.
Instead, on Friday night, the Hawks looked primarily to their second unit players. And not only did Atlanta’s reserves impress, the reserves of those reserves were just as deadly – with their backups combining to outscore Cleveland’s bench, 55-21.
One of those role players was Mike Dunleavy, who spent the first two months of the season in a Cavaliers uniform and finished with 20 points off the bench – going 4-of-5 from long-distance in just 20 minutes of work.
Dunleavy was one of three Hawks’ reserves and six players overall to finish in double-figures as Atlanta shot 51 percent from the floor, canning 16 three-pointers and handing out 39 assists on 45 made field goals with their starting point guard on the bench.
LeBron James led both teams with 27 points – going 12-for-15 from the floor but just 2-of-6 from the stripe, adding eight boards, seven helpers and a pair of steals. But James also accounted for five of the Cavaliers’ 13 turnovers in the loss.
Kyrie Irving followed up with 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with seven assists and Kevin Love notched his fifth straight double-double with 15 points and a game-high 15 boards.
Channing Frye, getting his second straight start at center for the injured Tristan Thompson – who missed his second game after appearing in 447 straight – was impressive again, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting, adding five boards and a pair of blocked shots.
Kyle Korver led Cleveland’s second unit – netting nine points against his former squad, going 2-for-6 from long-range on the night.
The Cavs starters combine to score 79 points but it’s not enough as the Cavs fall to the Hawks.
For Atlanta, Tim Hardaway Jr. led the late charge, netting 15 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Hawks outscored Cleveland, 31-22, in the period.
Ersan Ilyasova and Kris Humphries each notched double-figures, but it was Atlanta’s bench that did major damage on Friday night – with the trio of Dunleavy, Mike Muscala and DeAndre Bembry combining to shoot 16-for-22 from the floor.
Turning Point — Trailing by just five points after three quarters, it seemed like the Cavaliers would come to their senses and rally past the shorthanded Hawks in the fourth. And when Kyle Korver canned a triple with 9:03 to play, it seemed like that’s exactly what would happen.
But instead, things went in the exact opposite direction.
Ersan Ilyasova gave Atlanta the lead back and Tim Hardaway Jr. took over from there, keying a 21-2 run that left the stunned Cavaliers in the dust. The Hawks would eventually run their lead to as many as 20 points as Tyronn Lue emptied his bench with just under two minutes to play.
By the Numbers – 19.2, 12.8 … Kevin Love’s scoring and rebounding numbers over his last five games – giving him 39 double-doubles on the season, good for 6th in the Eastern Conference right behind LeBron James’ 41.
Quotable – LeBron James, on what was lacking in Friday night’s loss at The Q …
”Energy. As a group, our energy level was very low. I have no idea why, but it was just low.”
Up Next — Following Friday’s disappointing loss to the Hawks in Cleveland, the Wine and Gold are down to one more trip before returning home for Fan Appreciation Night next Wednesday against the Raptors to wrap up the regular season. On Sunday night, Cleveland travels to Atlanta before playing their final road contest of the season on Monday night in Miami.
Calls of the Game