Hawks take flight with Dwight
New-look Atlanta end 11-game losing run to Cleveland
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 106
ATLANTA HAWKS 110
The Atlanta Hawks handed Cleveland their first loss yesterday morning (Singapore time) with a 110-106 win, breaking a series stranglehold that saw the Cavaliers sweep Atlanta out of the play-offs for the last two years.
The Hawks' victory snapped an 11-game losing streak to Cleveland, who dropped to 6-1 for the season as they ended their run as the NBA's last unbeaten team.
"We were tired of getting pushed around by Cleveland and we wanted to beat these guys," said Hawks centre Dwight Howard.
"We are going to grow as a team.
"Our chemistry gets better with every game."
This is a very different Hawks team to the one that had been dominated by the Cavaliers, and Howard is one of the key reasons behind that.
The addition of Howard to the line-up is part of the roster shake-up that coach Mike Budenholzer had hoped would allow them to compete with the Cavaliers.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue agreed, saying: "They have a dominant post presence.
"He's very physical.
"Sometimes he demands double-teams if he gets deep in the paint.
"He's going to drive fouls on your big men.
"They also have a shot-blocker."
Hawks guard Kent Bazemore was pleased to have ended the Cavs' streak. He said: "They've dominated the Conference for a long time now.
"They're definitely the measuring stick, and we passed our first test.
"This is one of the biggest wins I've had since I've been here.
"They're a very, very special team and for my two years here, they've kicked our butts."
Cleveland swept the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals in May, when they set three-point shooting records and won each game by an average of 12.5 points.
The Cavaliers swept all seven meetings between the two last campaigns, including the post-season.
But things were different yesterday as Howard finished with 17 rebounds despite having to leave the game briefly in the first quarter to get a cut to the lip stitched up.
Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 28 points, Bazemore added 25 and Paul Millsap tallied 21 for the Hawks in front of 20,500 fans at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, LeBron James had 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Love added 24 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, who missed 31 three-point attempts.
"I think they might have had one of those nights, but our guys were really committed out there," Budenholzer said.
"Our defence in the first half gave us a cushion, and we were able to hold them off."
Holding off James and Co was no mean feat, and the superstar was keen to pay tribute to Atlanta.
"Give them a lot of credit," he said.
"They played a heck of a game.
"You know towards the end of the season they'll be right there."
- Wire Services.
- Brooklyn 119 Minnesota 110
- Memphis 108 Denver 107
- Portland 124 Phoenix 121
- LA Lakers 97 Dallas 109
- Sacramento 102 New Orleans 94.