Game 77: Cavs at Hawks
Hawks forward Mike Scott pulled the plug on their playoff aspirations.
Very few Cavs fans knew who he was before the game. They know him now after he made 12 of 13 from the field en route to 26 points.
They are three games out with six games to play. They have to finish a game ahead of both Atlanta and New York, since they lose tie-breakers to both teams.
One wouldn't think the Cavs would get beat by anyone by 19 points with such importance riding on this game. The Hawks led from wire-to-wire. I really can't explain it.
The Hawks entered tonight's game having lost seven of their last eight games.
The Cavs came into the game having won five of their last six games. They inserted guard Kyrie Irving into the mix in Orlando and he didn't miss a beat. Coach Mike Brown has finally figured out a way to play Irving and Dion Waiters together in the same backcourt.
More on Irving later.
They had to focus on Hawks guard Jeff Teague tonight. Teague usually gets up when he faces Irving, and has played well against him in the past. He can shoot and penetrate. He finished with 20 points and 12 assists vs. the Cavs.
The other focus was on power forward Paul Millsap, who might be a bit undersized, but is a very productive player. He's the only player in the Eastern Conference (and one of two in the entire league, Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins is the other) averaging at least 16 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. On the year, he is averaging 17.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks.
Millsap has destroyed the Cavs on the boards this year. He's pulled down 36 rebounds in the three Atlanta wins. The Hawks finished 3-0 this year vs. the Cavs and have won four in a row in the series.
Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson, who had averaged 13.5 rebounds in his previous two games, was no factor in the game. He was once again totally outplayed by the 6-8 Millsap.
Thompson played in his 200th consecutive game on Wednesday. His 33 double-doubles on the season are tied for fifth in the East.
Forward/center Anderson Varejao returned after a one-game absence for the Cavs. He missed one game with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. He ended with nine points and five rebounds. Strangely enough, Tyler Zeller never left the bench.
Forward Anthony Bennett was back in Toronto dealing with a personal issue. Guard C.J. Miles is also sidelined with the longest-running sprained ankle in team history, it seems.
Before I sign off, I wanted to commend Waiters for his recent play. He's averaged 22.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists in the last 10 games. He's playing the best basketball of his career right now.
Waiters has scored at least 20 points in seven of the last nine games.
Now, back to Irving. There was a blog entry, fueled by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, that stirred up more rumors about Irving. The Cavs guard lashed back at Windy on Twitter, and said the reporter should have had the guts to face him and ask him about these rumors before throwing all that stuff out there.
I've got to agree with Irving on this one.
UP NEXT: The Cavs host Charlotte at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. Pero Antic (6-11, 260)
Hawks - C Al Horford, G John Jenkins, C Gustavo Ayon