Cavaliers 112, Hawks 80
CLEVELAND (AP)—On his bobblehead night, LeBron James again left everyone shaking their heads.
“He just amazes me,” Cleveland coach Paul Silas said.
With their fifth win in seven games, the surging Cavaliers moved within one-half game of the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Don’t look now, but one season removed from winning just 17 games, Cleveland is only 1 1/2 games out of sixth playoff spot.
“We want to get there,” James said. “I want to get there.”
A sellout crowd of 20,562 came to Gund Arena for the bobblehead giveaway as the first 10,000 fans through the door received the tiny statues of James.
The other 10,000 fans who didn’t get the hot collectible didn’t leave disappointed, however, as James made several jaw-dropping plays while leading the Cavaliers to their most lopsided win this season.
Atlanta had upset the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, but were no match for the Cavs, who led by 17 points after one quarter, 22 at half, 25 at the end of three and 40 in the fourth.
“We came out wanting to jump this team early,” Cavs guard Jeff McInnis said. “That’s what we did.”
“This is miserable,” Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said. “I hate sitting on the sideline down by 30.”
Energized from the opening tap by the crowd, James gave fans some memories to savor with four dunks in the first half, including a pair of sensational slams to open the second period.
The first one even impressed James.
“It’s one of the best I’ve had,” he said. “It was a little something from my early archives.”
With Terry and Boris Diaw running with him, James wrapped the ball around his back near the foul line, split the defenders and delivered a right-handed dunk that had Diaw looking for cover and the crowd begging for a scoreboard replay.
“The one behind the back, I had to look myself and say, Oh, my God,” Silas said. “That one was awesome.”
Seconds later, James got behind Atlanta’s defense for another monstrous slam, completing a 15-0 run that put the Cavaliers ahead by 21 points.
Before the game, Silas had urged his young star to play with more energy— and James did just as he was told.
“He was just into it,” Silas said. “I hate to put it on a 19-year-old, but tonight he came with it.”
Doing almost anything they wanted offensively, the Cavs eventually stretched their lead to 23.
James closed the third quarter by scoring nine straight points—two free throws, a left-handed layup, a 17-foot jumper and a 3-pointer—to put the Cavs up 85-60.
“The kid can play,” Jackson said. “He must be tremendous because they’re looking at the playoffs. He has a lot of upside. He is definitely blessed.”
James got to rest and enjoyed the final 12 minutes, but that didn’t stop the Cavaliers who pushed their lead to 40 with five minutes left.
“We were like the Dallas Mavericks tonight,” he said.
Tempers flared briefly in the third quarter after Atlanta’s Joel Przybilla set a hard pick on McInnis, who sat dazed on the floor for several seconds.
McInnis took exception to the pick and retaliated by elbowing the 7-foot Przybilla in the back of the head. Przybilla then pushed McInnis and the two were both assessed technical fouls.
“He kind of kicked at me on the ground,” McInnis said. “I just wanted togive him a little bit back.”
Thousands of fans ringed the Gund more than three hours before tipoff to get their hands on one of the bobbleheads. “I got one,” Silas said. The collectibles are going for more than $200 in Internet auctions. … Nailon was signed to a 10-day contract Wednesday by the Cavs, who are looking for scoring from their bench. Nailon played for Silas in Charlotte and was cut by the Hornets one day after a heated verbal exchange with his coach. “We never came to blows,” Silas said with a laugh. So are things better? “As long as he doesn’t come at me like that,” Silas said. … Jackson has scored at least 15points in 21 straight games.