The Cavs fell to the Hawks 124-122. Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Cavaliers found a way to lose a game to the Atlanta Hawks in a more demoralizing way than Friday night’s blowout loss. The Cavaliers lost their second game in a row, both to Atlanta, and this time the team had a 26-point fourth quarter lead.
Through three quarters, the game was never in question for the Cavaliers. Cleveland outscored Atlanta 38-21 in the first and never looked back. By the time the fourth quarter had started, the Cavs lead was up to 26 and it looked as if it was time to get the starters some extra rest. But this is the Cavaliers we are talking about. Naturally Cleveland took their foot off the gas a little too early, allowing the Hawks to get back into the game. Up until the final minute it looked as if the game would merely be a little too close for comfort, but a 5-second violation and some ill timed fouls allowed the Hawks to tie it up and send the game to overtime. The overtime period was a comedy of errors by the officials as LeBron fouled out on a questionable call and Kevin Love was called for a charge (that would have been his 6th foul) that was overturned by replay. Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer was also displeased with the officiating during the extra frame and was often seen angrily yelling at the refs. Mike Muscala balled out in overtime and helped the Hawks shock the Cavs.
Kyrie Irving shined for the Cavaliers. Irving set the pace for the team early, shooting five of seven in the first quarter for 15 points. He finished the game with 45 points. Kyrie’s big game comes just days after the talented point guard complained of soreness in his surgically repaired knee. However, Kyrie was not the only Cavalier to have a big day. LeBron James had 32-16-10 (his 13th triple double of the year) before he fouled out in overtime and Channing Frye posted 12 points and 8 boards while filling in as a starter for the injured Tristan Thompson. But it was all for naught as a horrendous game from the bench left the starters without much room for error. Iman Shumpert was -22 and perhaps had Tyronn Lue already missing DeAndre Liggins.
If there was a negative to a game, other than the obvious one (fourth quarter collapse), it would be the lack of contributions from the bench. Through the first three quarters only one Cavaliers bench player, Kyle Korver, had scored in the game. As Tyronn Lue prepares his team for the upcoming playoff run it will be imperative that he finds a way to maximize the contributions provided by the bench unit.
The Cavaliers last two games, both against the Hawks, are emblematic of the 2016-2017 Cleveland Cavaliers. At times, like on Friday, the Cavaliers look disinterested and disorganized. At times, like the first three quarters today, the Cavaliers look like an offensive juggernaut that few teams can hang with. The ups and downs of this season have been a roller coaster. Hopefully the playoffs will see more consistent play from LeBron and company.
The Cavaliers will look to get back in the win column tomorrow night in Miami.