CLEVELAND, OH – Jeff Teague’s last-second jump shot hung around the rim for what seemed like an eternity. The fans at Quicken Loans Arena were silent. But after five bounces off the iron, the ball fell through the net, giving the Atlanta Hawks a 127-125 double-overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The loss drops the Cavaliers to 10-18 on the year. For the Hawks, one of only three Eastern Conference teams with a record above .500, the victory moves them to 16-13.
Leading the way tonight for the Cavaliers was third year guard and former No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving with 40 points. Irving was the Cavs go-to-man all night long, but a few turnovers down the stretch may have cost the Wine and Gold chances to secure a victory. As time was winding down near the end of the first overtime, and the game tied, Irving lost the ball off of his leg on an inbounds play, giving the Hawks possession.
“I don’t exactly know what happened,” Coach Mike Brown said of the play. “It was a big turnover for us. And we just have to understand that in situations like that we have to be more careful with the basketball.”
The Cavs finished the night with 24 turnovers, tied for their season high. The Hawks scored 22 points off of the turnovers.
Fellow former Cavalier lottery picks Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters played pivotal roles as well. Thompson added 22 points, corralled six rebounds and blocked two shots. Waiters, who missed the past three games with right wrist tendinitis, did not miss a beat in his return. He scored 20 points, while going 9-14 from the field.
The Cavs got blown out in two of the games that Waiters missed. They definitely needed his presence tonight.
“We missed his scoring the last three games,” Brown said. “Dion makes us more dynamic. He’s going to help us score. He’s going to help the second unit score.”
For the Hawks, Jeff Teague had a career high 34-point night and dealt out 14 assists. To go along with his game-winning jumper in 2OT, he also had a game-tying 30 foot three-pointer near the end of the first overtime. In that situation with the Cavs up by three, many thought the Wine and Gold should have fouled the Hawks and sent them to the line. According to Coach Brown after the game, fouling them is something they never would have done.
Along with Teague, Atlanta had three other players with great scoring nights. Kyle Korver added 20 and extended his league record of 98 straight games with a made three-pointer. Paul Millsap had 25 points and 11 rebounds. And center Al Horford scored 25 points and secured eight rebounds. His numbers probably would have been higher had he not injured his shoulder in the first overtime. The injury was severe enough to prevent him from returning.
The Cavs’ 125 points was their second most of the season. The 127 points they allowed was also the highest thus far. Scoring was not an issue tonight, but defensively, the Wine and Gold missed opportunities to win.
“We still don’t understand that we can win games by getting stops. That’s a big downfall of ours because you think you shoot 52 percent from the floor and you score 125 points in two overtimes, you think you’d have a chance to win if you decided to get some stops throughout the course of the game,” Brown said.
He continued, “Somehow someway we have to figure out that we can’t outscore everybody. Every once in a while, we got to bare down and get stops.”
Up next for the Cavaliers, who sit 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot, are the Boston Celtics. They take them on Saturday, December 28th at 1 p.m. at the TD Garden in Boston. For the Hawks, they will play Charlotte on Saturday.
PG Kyrie Irving — 40 points and nine assists, while shooting 12-33 from the field, three of eight from downtown, and three of four from the free throw line.
Kyrie dominated offensively for most of the game. There were stretches where it seemed as if he could not miss. But as I mentioned above, costly turnovers by him in crunch time really hurt the Wine and Gold tonight. He seemingly got to the rim at ease for most of the night, while being able to get off his jumper whenever he pleased. He scored 16 total points in the overtimes tonight. Kyrie was clearly playing with a sense of urgency tonight.
SG C.J. Miles — 10 points and two rebounds, four of seven from the field and two of three from the three throw line.
C.J. played all right tonight. He only got 14 minutes total, so his number are rather impressive for such limited playing time. As the game progressed, Coach Brown gave most of the two guard minutes to either Jarrett Jack or Dion Waiters, so as a result, C.J. had his warm up jacket on for most of game. But whenever he was roaming the hardwood, I do think he was playing well.
SF Earl Clark — Three points and five rebounds, while shooting one for four from the field and zero for zero from the free throw line.
Earl got the starting nod from Coach Brown tonight over Alonzo Gee. But just as with C.J., Earl Clark saw limited action. He only played 18 minutes tonight, but he was not that bad either. The other players on the team were just playing well enough for Coach Brown not to need him on the floor. He did have a few nice defensive plays, especially a really nice block early on in the game. I do think Coach Brown will start him at the three when the Cavs face Boston on Saturday.
PF Tristan Thompson — 22 points, two blocks, and six rebounds, while shooting eight of 13 from the field and six of eight from the free throw line.
To say I was impressed with Tristan tonight is a huge understatement. He had a really great game, in my opinion. Obviously, 22 points is a pretty good game most nights, but it was the way he got them. He had a lot of nice sequences in the post as well as a few clean up dunks. Those are nice to see because it means he is crashing the glass on the offensive side of the ball. I was really impressed with Tristan tonight and he really is proving night in and night out that he is an NBA-caliber postman.
C Andrew Bynum — Four points and one rebound, while shooting two of three from the field and zero of zero from the free throw line.
Well, Bynum made two more field goals against the Hawks then he did in his previous outing, so I guess that’s a plus. He, like Miles and Clark, did not play that much (only 18 minutes), but with Bynum, I think the lack of playing time came from his laziness. I did not see him competing on the defensive end and Al Horford was going to work on him. Early on, he had great energy, but it quickly turned sour. Luckily Varejao was so good tonight the Cavs did not need to rely on Bynum for a lot of minutes.
C Anderson Varejao — Eight points, three blocks and 17 rebounds, while shooting four of seven from the field and zero for one from the free throw line.
This award was a definite toss up. I was torn between Dion or Andy. But after asking a magic eight ball, I decided to go with Andy. In his 35 minutes off the bench, the Cavs had a +/- of +11. That really indicates the impact he had on this game. The things that will not show up in the box score are the amount of hustle plays he had. I was trying to keep track of how many loose balls he saved or how many turnovers he created with just sheer effort, but I lost count sometime after halftime. He was everywhere tonight, it is a shame his effort could not have amounted in a Cavalier win. Also, Andy should get a pat on the back because he moved into sixth place in defensive rebounds in franchise history tonight. Congrats, Wild Thing.
I was at Coach Brown’s post game press conference and here are a few of his quotes from it:
On tonight’s game:
“We had had some good moments during the course of the game, but it’s disappointing because we had plenty of opportunities to close the game at the end of regulation, at the end of the first overtime and even at the end of the second overtime. But you give Atlanta credit. They’re a good team. Mike Budenholzer is doing a great job with them. I just felt we made too many mistakes as a group down the stretch in regulation and overtime, offensively and defensively. We’ll go back and take a look at the film and hopefully we can correct them going forward.”
And here is Atlanta’s Coach, Mike Budenholzer, on the game:
“Well, it was a heck of a basketball game. I think Cleveland and Kyrie Irving were pretty amazing and pretty special. I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to win a game. (We) executed offensively down the stretch. A couple of guys came in and made some big plays. Pero Antić basically hadn’t played most of the game and comes in and contributes to the win. (There was) a lot of good stuff on both ends. It was really just a heck of a basketball game.”