CLEVELAND (AP)—For three quarters, it was anybody’s game. The fourth belonged exclusively to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“In the fourth, we got the job done,” James said. “And ‘Z’ carried the load. I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
Ilgauskas scored 20 points after halftime, and James added nine assists and six rebounds in his second game wearing a protective mask over a broken left cheek. The Cavaliers clamped down on the Hawks in the fourth, blanking them 12-0 in the first 8:16.
Atlanta missed its first 12 shots—and both free-throw attempts—in the fourth before Tyronn Lue dropped a 15-foot jumper to bring the Hawks within 90-79.
“We were running the same plays that worked earlier, but the shots didn’t fall,” said Antoine Walker, who led Atlanta with 26 points. “We just missed shots.”
Lue’s basket gave the Hawks a glimmer of hope, but James ended any thoughts of a comeback by draining a 3-pointer 34 seconds later. Jeff McInnis added another 3 and James hit his second long-range shot to put the Cavs up 101-83 with 54.3 seconds left.
Atlanta was outscored 23-8 in the last 12 minutes, matching a club record for fewest points in the fourth done three times, most recently on March 4, 2004, against Minnesota.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson was disappointed with his team’s effort—and attitude—down the stretch.
“When you’re in a close game in the fourth quarter, you have to step it up,” Woodson said. “It does no good to complain to officials. Go and make a play. Hit a shot. Drive to the basket. Draw a foul. Make a play.”
Al Harrington added 16 points and nine rebounds for Atlanta (5-25), which can blame its fifth straight loss on a 3-of-18 effort from the floor in the fourth.
Cleveland got a nice lift from its second unit, led by rookie Anderson Varejao, who had 11 rebounds and helped out on Walker in the fourth.
“That’s what he does,” James said of Varejao, who was coming off a 12-rebound game in Charlotte. “He played great down the stretch.”
Ilgauskas scored 14 points in the third quarter when the Cavs tried to pull away. But Walker kept Atlanta close, making a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 10 points in the period as the Hawks went into the fourth down 78-77.
But Ilgauskas and James scored two baskets apiece, McInnis hit a jumper after Ilgauskas ran the ball down in the corner and Lucious Harris made two free throws as the Cavs opened a 90-77 lead before the Hawks finally scored.
Cleveland contested every shot, and Ilgauskas and James both had blocks during the Cavs’ decisive burst.
“To hold a team to eight points, I don’t care what team, is great,” James said. “It was great team defense. Everybody stepped up.”
The Cavaliers were flat in the first half, perhaps thinking they could coast to a third straight win this season over the Hawks. But after trailing by seven points, Atlanta rallied behind rookie Josh Smith, who scored the final nine points before halftime to put the Hawks ahead 49-48.
James still isn’t comfortable in his custom-fitted mask, a necessity since having his cheek fractured by Houston’s Dikembe Mutombo. “I don’t want to get used to it,” he said. “I wanted to take it off. It’s pretty hot under there.” … Cavs rookie F-G Luke Jackson went back on the injured list with back spasms, the third time he has been placed there this season. Jackson, the No. 10 overall pick, has played just 43 minutes. The club activated G Dajuan Wagner, who like Jackson has bounced back and forth from the injured list. “It’s just a thing we’re dealing with,” coach Paul Silas said of flip-flopping the pair. “Believe me, it is not an ideal situation.” … Wagner didn’t play because of the flu. … Hawks C Kevin Willis played in his 743rd game with Atlanta, three behind Cliff Hagan for fourth place on the team’s career list. … Hawks G Tony Delk bruised his left hand in the first half and didn’t return. … The Cavs have won six in a row over Atlanta.