Despite some noise being made at a different sporting event across town, the Atlanta Hawks had a match against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were without their unquestioned best and most important player — Kyrie Irving warmed up but opted not to play with a sore shoulder.
The result was a solid 102-94 Hawks victory.
In Irving’s place was Shaun Livingston, along with Wayne Ellington in the backcourt, and it showed as the Hawks were able to poke away a number of balls for fast-break opportunities. The Cavaliers looked discombobulated on both sides of the floor, often fouling due to being out of position on the floor and stalling on offense.
Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao also remained out, arguably Cleveland’s second and third best players, so the remaining players had little pressure to steal this game.
Hawks combo guard Devin Harris got to the hoop a number of times early and often and finished with 25 points on a game-high 17 shot attempts.
Kyle Korver extended his three-point streak to 68 games, which ties Reggie Miller for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, as well as owning the Hawks’ franchise record..
Atlanta played their game at their tempo and dared Cleveland to keep up. The Cavs stuck around in the first half by winning the rebounding battle, but still found themselves down by eight heading into half.
The Cavs found their groove in the second half by swinging the ball around the halfcourt set and knocking down mid-range shots.
Larry Drew called a timeout early into the third quarter and the Hawks responded in a big way. A 16-4 run spelled the end of Cleveland’s hopes for a win in Atlanta.
Maurice Speights tried to keep the Cavaliers in the game single handily, shooting a lights out 11-15 for 23 points. Still, you won’t win many games giving Chris Quinn and Luke Walton 39 minutes of play.
The game was chippy throughout with tons of jawing and hard fouls.
Boobie Gibson got ejected after getting hit with two technical fouls for repeatedly arguing a call, and Luke Walton almost followed his lead with a reckless shove of Ivan Johnson.
Al Horford fouled out for only the second time this season.
It was clear that one team was severely undermanned and less talented. Preparation for the 2013-14 season has already begun, as young guys like Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson have been given a long look at in the past month and will be viewed under a microscope in the following months.
For the Hawks, they currently sit in 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a tentative matchup with the beatable Brooklyn Nets looming.
Don’t look now, but there are only nine games left until the regular season is over and the thrilling post-season begins.
Hopefully, the Hawks can hit that benchmark in stride and exceed expectations in late April into May.
1. Devin Harris: Harris looked like the player he was in New Jersey today. Despite going only 1-7 from long range, he pushed the action and finished at the rim as often as he finished at the line. 8-8 from the stripe helped ice the game for the home team.
2. Josh Smith: Smoove messed around and nearly had a triple double. 18 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists is surely a gaudy total.
3. Al Horford/Jeff Teague: Both were overshadowed by Josh and Devin respectively but put together solid lines. 16 and 6 for Horford and 19 and 9 for Teague. They both had the pick and pop going early and have visibly grown more comfortable together this season being the focal points of the Hawks offense.