CLEVELAND: The Atlanta Hawks handed Cleveland their first loss on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) with a 110-106 win that broke a series stranglehold that saw the Cavaliers sweep Atlanta out of the playoffs the last two years.
The Hawks’ victory snapped an 11-game losing skid to Cleveland, who dropped to 6-1 on the season as they were the NBA’s last unbeaten team.
“We were tired of getting pushed around by Cleveland and we wanted to beat these guys,” said Hawks center Dwight Howard.
This is a much different Hawks team than the one that had been dominated by the Cavaliers and Howard is one of the reasons why. The addition of Howard to the lineup is part of the roster shakeup that coach Mike Budenholzer had hoped would allow them to compete with the Cavaliers.
“We are tired of what people said about us in the past and we wanted to change that,” Howard said. “We are going to grow as a team. Our chemistry gets better with every game.”
Cleveland swept the Hawks in the conference semi-finals last spring 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 season, including the postseason.
Howard finished with 17 rebounds for Atlanta despite having to leave the game briefly in the first quarter to get stitched up for a cut to the lip.
Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 28 points, Kent Bazemore added 25 and Paul Millsap tallied 21 for the Hawks in front of a crowd of 20,500 at Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland.
Bazemore made a couple of clutch baskets in the final four minutes. His three-pointer with 3:33 left extended the Hawks’ lead to 101-95.
He followed with a baseline jumper in the final seconds to put the game out of reach after a three-point play from Kevin Love had pulled Cleveland within 108-106 with 25 seconds left.
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.