Apr 4, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives to the basket past Cleveland Cavaliers center Spencer Hawes (32) and guard Dion Waiters (3) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Cavaliers 117-98. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Instant Reaction: Atlanta Hawks 117, Cleveland Cavaliers 98

Final Outcome

The Cleveland Cavaliers (31-46, 14-26 away) pretty much removed themselves from Eastern Conference playoff contention on Friday with a 117-98 to the Atlanta Hawks (33-42, 22-15) at Phillips Arena. After sputtering off to a slow offensive start – much like the last time the Cavs visited Atlanta in 2013 this season – to begin the first quarter, Cleveland dug themselves into a hole that was going to be hard to climb out of if the Wine & Gold wanted to gain ground on the Hawks in the playoff race. Although four Cavaliers finished with double digits, the ineffectiveness from the field resulted in multiple missed opporutinites down the court for the Cavs. Not being able to convert on field goal attempts despite a pesky defensive effort, the Wine & Gold converted 39.6 percent of their field goals and were outdone in the assist department, 35-16.

Key Play to the Game

In the first quarter the Atlanta frontcourt buried Cleveland’s defense, making sure that the red-hot combo of Tristan Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller were limited in context to how they have played over the past six games. But, as of lately, power forward Paul Millsap for the Hawks has been carrying his team to his most potential. This hard-fought effort by the Atlanta frontcourt accounted for 24 of Atlanta’s 39 first quarter points, and the Cavaliers just couldn’t slow down the physicality of the Hawks for the remainder of the 36 minutes. The Atlanta bigs in the first quarter set the tone for an Atlanta victory, somethine that pretty much buries Cleveland’s playoffs hopes.

Wine & Gold MVP

Dion Waiters continued his dominant run in the starting lineup, scoring 23 points on 8 of 19 (42.1 percent) from the field. Although his percentage clip wasn’t as high as it has been with Jarrett Jack in the lineup, Waiters’ ability to step up production wise has been extremely consistent over the past 12 games (21.5 points). Although Dion’s hot streak may have come on a litte too late, it was the defense and the sharp shooting of Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Teague and Louis Williams (52.9 percent from three) that overshrouded another spectacular Dion performance. I don’t think Dion’s recent heroics will be able to push the Cavs the distance they need to go in order to make the postseason, especially after Friday night’s crucial loss.

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Up Next

Without an a day of rest the Cavaliers will be heading back to Quicken Loans Arena for a matchup with playoff hopeful the Charlotte Bobcats (38-38,15-22 away). Standing at seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a five-and-a-half lead over the ninth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte could solidify their playoff birth for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Tipoff will take place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena.

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