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Cavaliers-Hawks Preview

AP - Sports

The Atlanta Hawks haven't played particularly well on the road, but they've been awfully tough to slow down at home.

That's what makes Saturday night's game especially significant for Atlanta.

Winners of five straight and seven of eight at home, the Hawks try to take advantage of a visit from the Cleveland Cavaliers before heading out on a five-game road trip.

Atlanta (11-5) held opponents to 86.5 points while sweeping a four-game homestand that ended with Wednesday's 92-89 win over Portland, and its outstanding defense carried over to the first half of Friday's trip to Philadelphia.

The Hawks held the 76ers to 34.1 percent shooting in the opening 24 minutes and led 47-39, but couldn't keep getting stops after halftime. A 14-0 Philadelphia third-quarter run turned the game around and Atlanta couldn't recover in a 90-76 loss that left coach Larry Drew fuming.

"It got tough for us and we quit,'' Drew said. "That's what happened. I was more disappointed than frustrated.''

The Hawks fell to 4-4 on the road, where they're averaging just 91.5 points, but it's been a different story at home. Atlanta has scored 101.6 points per game at Philips Arena, where its only loss came in triple overtime Jan. 5 to a Miami team missing LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

That road inconsistency has made it particularly important for the Hawks to win the games they should at home - they'll begin a five-game trip Monday in Milwaukee - and Saturday's contest certainly falls in that category.

Cleveland (6-8) was a bit lethargic in Tuesday's return from a seven-game road trip, a 105-95 loss to Golden State, but it was flat-out bad Friday. Reigning MVP Derrick Rose sat out for Chicago, but the Cavaliers couldn't come close to taking advantage in a 114-75 loss - the worst at home in franchise history.

Like Drew, Cleveland coach Byron Scott was hardly pleased.

"We didn't react to their physical play whatsoever - besides the whining." Scott said. "You cannot let a good team like they are come in and play harder, be more physical, more aggressive and expect to win or even be in the game.

"We have a long way to go. Simple as that."

That massive margin of defeat inflated Cleveland's points per game differential at home to minus-5.4, but it's been better on the road. The Cavaliers are 4-5 away from Quicken Loans Arena, where they've been outscored by an average of just 1.0 point.

They didn't pick up their fifth road win last season until March 16, in their 33rd game.

Rookie Kyrie Irving has been Cleveland's model of consistency despite already surpassing the number of games he played in his brief collegiate career, scoring at least 20 points in each of his last five road contests.

But the Cavaliers generally haven't won unless Antawn Jamison's provided a second scoring threat. They're 4-1 when Jamison scores at least 20 points and 2-7 when he puts up 19 or fewer.

Jamison missed two of the three games in last season's series against Atlanta, all losses.

While Irving has given the Cavs some consistent scoring on the road, Joe Johnson's done that for the Hawks at home. The five-time All-Star has scored at least 23 points in his last four games at Philips Arena, where he averages 21.9 points - 7.4 more than on the road.

Johnson was held to eight points Friday.

Marvin Williams has only given the Hawks 7.3 points per game since returning from a sprained ankle last week, but he should enjoy seeing the Cavs. He averaged 23.3 points last season versus Cleveland.

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