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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Game 28: Hawks at Cavs

ATLANTA HAWKS (16-13) 127, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (10-18) 125, (2OT)
Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED: I could count about five different times the Cavs had the game wrapped up. Each time, the Hawks got a ridiculously easy shot and got right back into the game. 

The Hawks are a good team. They are currently the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Are they an elite team? No. They have three really good players in Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap.

Teague is a borderline All-Star right now. He's playing that well. He had a career-high 34 points on Thursday and hit the game-winning shot in double overtime. He was outscored by Kyrie Irving, who had 40, but Teague won the game.

That's all that really matters.

The thing that separates the Hawks from the Cavs? They are a much smarter team. They don't make bone-headed mistakes like the Cavs.

They don't foul 3-point shooters 30 feet from the basket. Cavs center Anderson Varejao knocked Kyle Korver down after the latter drained a 3-pointer. You just can't do that, especially when you have a five-point lead in the second OT.

You can't allow the "guy with the beard," Pero Antic, to drain a wide-open 3. I don't think anyone guarded him. 

Cavs guard Kyrie Irving had six turnovers. I swear it seemed like he had about nine. Many of them were unforced.

The Cavs have lost their last three matchups against the Hawks, including the Dec. 6 contest in Atlanta. The Cavs were throttled in that game, 108-89.

The Cavs are facing the fork in the road in the 2013-14 season. It's time to either start playing like they are capable or go south. They are really close to the latter. The signs are there.

They don't play hard half the time, even though they did on Thursday. They aren't listening to what the coaches are preaching. They are not defending like they need to. They have the mindset that they can outscore teams. Coach Mike Brown wants them to defend first and foremost.

Horford totally outplayed Cavs center Andrew Bynum. He outscored him, 25-4. He drew Bynum away from the basket with 15-foot jumpers.

Horford is headed toward another All-Star appearance. He's averaging 23.2 points and is shooting 64.6 percent from the field in his last seven games.

The Hawks are averaging almost 117 points in their last six games. They don't have a deep bench.

After much build-up, Brown made a change to his starting lineup. He inserted Earl Clark in at small forward and benched Alonzo Gee. It was much to do about nothing. Clark had three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. 

Brown said he was going to stick with the move for a while. He also played backup center Tyler Zeller for 11 minutes. The tradeoff of that was to trim some of Bynum's minutes. He played just 17 minutes and had just one rebound and one block.

UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Boston at 1 p.m. Saturday at TD Center.

SF Earl Clark (6-10, 225) vs. DeMarre Carroll (6-8, 212)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Paul Millsap (6-8, 253)
C Andrew Bynum (7-0, 294) vs. Al Horford (6-10, 250)
SG C.J. Miles (6-6, 231) vs. Kyle Korver (6-7, 212)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Jeff Teague (6-2, 181)
Cavs - C Henry Sims, G Carrick Felix
Hawks - G Jared Cunningham, G John Jenkins
Bill Spooner, David Jones, James Williams


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