Cavaliers 110, Hawks 76
James shook off an early elbow to the face and scored 23 points, Sasha Pavlovic added 15 and the Cleveland Cavaliers ran up and down the floor at will in a 110-76 win Saturday night against the painfully pathetic Hawks.
Cleveland’s 48th—and most lopsided win since 1998—this season kept the Cavs on pace with idle Chicago (48-32) for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Both teams have two games left with the Bulls holding the tiebreaker because of a better record in the division.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Larry Hughes 13 points for the Cavs, who built a 28-point lead by halftime over the overmatched Hawks, missing several key players because of injuries.
For most of the night the Cavaliers did whatever they pleased against the Hawks, who looked more like a group of guys going through the motions of a pickup game at the local YMCA than an NBA squad.
“I like that our sense of urgency has picked up,” Cavs guard Eric Snow said. “That’s what you need to do going into the playoffs.”
The Cavs, who have had a tendency to play down to lesser teams, made sure this one was over early and beat Atlanta for the 12th time 14 games. Up by 30 points after three quarters, Cavs coach Mike Brown rested James and Cleveland’s other starters for most of the fourth.
“We were very business like,” said James, accidentally clobbered in the nose by Josh Smith. “It was one of our most complete games because we were able to hold onto the lead we had.”
Smith returned from a two-game suspension for an expletive-filled tirade at coach Mike Woodson to lead the Hawks with 23 points.
Atlanta, which has dropped 10 of 12, was in trouble before the opening tip.
Woodson, who has had to deal with injuries all season, said leading scorer Joe Johnson (bruised calf) and Speedy Claxton (sore knee) will miss the final week. Atlanta was already without Josh Childress (broken foot), and forward Zaza Pachulia (lower right leg) and guard Salim Stoudamire (sprained ankle) are both nursing injuries.
Even at full speed, the Hawks may not have had enough to handle the Cavaliers, who played their second straight solid game as they gear up for what they hope will be a lengthy run in the postseason.
“We’ve had so many injuries that we haven’t been able to put anything consistently together,” Woodson said. “We have no chemistry at all because of the injuries. Until we can get healthy bodies back, it’s going to be a struggle.”
The Cavaliers, who shot a season-best 57 percent from the field, seemed intent on grounding the Hawks as quickly as possible, and for long stretches of the first half the game was embarrassingly onesided.
James, coming off a 35-point performance in a win over New Jersey, dropped a 3-pointer on Cleveland’s first possession and the Cavs reeled off nine straight points before the Hawks called a timeout.
A few minutes later, James’ nose was dripping blood after he was accidentally hit by a left elbow from Smith, who went over and asked Cleveland’s star if he was OK after the first quarter.
James was fine. The Hawks looked woozy.
“He definitely caught me pretty good,” James said. “But I’m a football player, I’m all right.”
After shooting 67 percent from the field and opening an 11-point lead after one, the Cavaliers clamped down on defense and held Atlanta without a point for 7:10 while taking a 56-28 halftime lead.
“We were aggressive, moved the basketball, got stops, limited those guys to one shot and took care of business,” Hughes said.
The Cavs had seven players in double figures. … Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel sat courtside as a guest of James. The two are co-hosting the ESPYs in July. … Good sports: Hawks C Lorenzen Wright and G Anthony Johnson playfully embraced when they were shown on the Kiss-Cam, drawing a loud ovation from the crowd. … The Cavaliers played their 3,000th game since joining the NBA as an expansion team in 1970. … Atlanta’s 28-point first half tied a franchise low.