ATLANTA HAWKS (27-20) 103, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (17-27) 102 (OT)
Radio/TV: WTAM/Fox Sports Ohio
The Cavs normally take the court against the Hawks and proceed to get manhandled. In two previous losses this year, the Cavs have lost by a combined 43 points.
That was anything but the case on Wednesday. The Cavs had control of the game for most of the night, but failed to close it out. Of course, Hawks guard Joe Johnson's 3-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer was the one that hurt the worst.
Knowing they needed a 3 to send it into overtime, that's exactly what Hawks coach Larry Drew drew up in the huddle. Johnson took care of the rest. In reality, the Cavs should have crowded all of their long-range shooters on the last play. Instead, Johnson got way too much space on Anthony Parker and drained the shot. Horrible execution by the defense. You can't let that happen there. Let them have a two-point bucket. Even foul on the play and send them to the line. The worst thing that could happen is what took place - and it ended up costing them a win.
The Cavs took advantage of a clear-path foul on the Hawks in OT and built a five-point lead. But some ill-advised shots down the stretch led to their undoing. Johnson once again stuck it to the Cavs. His 14-foot fadeaway jumper with 18 seconds left in overtime was the game-winner.
Cavs guard Kyrie Irving missed a 18-footer that would have won the game. Alonzo Gee's putback was off the mark.
The Cavs have lost seven in a row to the Hawks, including the last four at Philips Arena.
Gee did a good job defensively on Johnson on Wednesday, holding him to a 7-for-19 shooting performance. But Johnson made the two biggest shots in the game, so let's not get too carried away with Gee's defense.
Cavs guard Daniel Gibson didn't play with a sprained left ankle. He probably won't play in Orlando on Friday, either. The Cavs are describing the injury as a "sprain." I hope it isn't a stress fracture. But I might be getting ahead of myself here.
Once Irving sits down, it's imperative that Donald Sloan holds the fort. That's been a problem since Ramon Sessions was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Things have fallen apart when Irving takes a seat.
It's time for Manny Harris to shine in a backup role behind Anthony Parker. Harris had a season-high 11 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes against the Hawks. His scoring ability has never been questioned.
Harris is a pure scorer. It's the rest of his game that is questionable, most notably his ballhandling and decision-making. He's been turnover-prone throughout his career. He said he worked hard on those things in the offseason, but he had a major setback with the ulcer on his foot in the preseason. The foot is fine now - he offered to show it to me recently, so I took a look. Everything looked OK.
Coach Byron Scott said he saw pictures of the cryogenic "burn" in the preseason and it was scary.
All that's behind him now.
Hawks center Zaza Pachulia was held in check on Wednesday with 14 points and seven rebounds. He still impacted the game with his toughness.
It was forward Josh Smith who exploited the Cavs with 32 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He was 12 of 14 from the foul line. Smith took a few crazy shots, but was dominant. Cavs forward Antawn Jamison tried to counter Smith with 23 points and 12 rebounds. He shot the ball well with a 9-for-17 performance.
Center Tristan Thompson had 13 points and five rebounds against the Hawks. In three games as the starting center, he's averaged 15.7 points and 7.7 rebounds. Ryan Hollins, waived on Tuesday, won't be missed.
The Cavs travel to Orlando at 7 p.m. Friday at Amway Center.
SF Alonzo Gee (6-6, 219) vs. Joe Johnson (6-7, 240)
PF Antawn Jamison (6-9, 235) vs. Josh Smith (6-9, 225)
C Tristan Thompson (6-9, 227) vs. Zaza Pachulia (6-11, 275)
SG Anthony Parker (6-6, 210) vs. Kirk Hinrich (6-4, 190)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 191) vs. Jeff Teague (6-2, 181)
– C Anderson Varejao, F Luke Harangody
- G Jannero Pargo, C Al Horford