ATLANTA (AP)—Cleveland coach Paul Silas considered a lineup change after his Cavaliers lost their first three games.
Instead, Silas stuck with his starters—especially LeBron James.
Playing all 48 minutes Tuesday night, James scored 25 points, including two dunks and a 3-pointer in a three-minute span of the third quarter, and the Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 93-79.
The Hawks (0-4) scored only 25 second-half points—their worst output in a half in team history.
James helped the Cavaliers take the lead for good in the third quarter.
“I told him that if I had to play him the whole 48, I had to get the win,” Silas said. “It’s too bad we’re playing tomorrow night but we’ll deal with that tomorrow. He sparked us. He’s doing whatever it takes.”
The Cavaliers will host the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, and James seems ready to put his time in again.
“Coach can play me as many minutes as he wants to, man,” James said. “It’s early now. I’ve got all the energy, I’ve got all the life I can give right now.”
Cleveland’s 7-foot-3 center Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 27 points, most coming on easy baskets which exposed the Hawks’ weakness in the middle. With Jason Collier still limited by bronchitis, 42-year-old Kevin Willis started at center for Atlanta and scored six points in 19 minutes.
Silas had considered changing his starting lineup before deciding to stick with forward Drew Gooden and shooting guard Lucious Harris. Gooden scored only two points in 18 minutes and Harris picked up four fouls in seven minutes and scored only two points.
The Hawks led 54-52 at halftime but shot only 25 percent from the field in the second half.
Atlanta’s previous low total for a half was 26 points in the second half of two games, most recently against Milwaukee on Nov. 15, 2000. The Hawks also scored only 26 points in the second half at Cleveland on Nov. 19, 1996.
“We had 16 assists in the first half and then only one in the third quarter,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “You can’t win like that.”
Antoine Walker, who led the Hawks with 22 points, made only one of eight shots in the second half. The Hawks were held to 11 points in the final period.
The game was tied at 58 before James took control midway through the third quarter.
James then stole a pass from Willis and scored on a reverse jam. James’ 3-pointer with 3:54 left in the period pushed Cleveland’s lead to 67-62.
The Hawks set a season high with 31 first-quarter points.
Cleveland (1-3) balanced James’ outside shots by passing inside to Ilgauskas, who scored 16 points in the first half, mostly from under the basket.
The Hawks were within six points at 78-72 with 7:30 left to play, but scored only seven points the rest of the way.
Collier played 12 minutes and scored two points with no rebounds. … Cleveland was 29-of-36 from the free-throw line; Atlanta was 14-of-23. … The Hawks drew a sellout crowd of 19,624 for their home opener.