At one point it got downright ugly – looking more like a pinball game than a basketball contest.
Nonetheless, the Atlanta Hawks managed to rise above the Cleveland Cavaliers (23-50) to register a 102-94 win at Philips Arena on Monday.
With the win, Atlanta (42-33) pulled to within one game of Brooklyn in the race for fourth place in the NBA East with seven games remaining in the regular season.
Devin Harris’ 11 first-quarter points got the Hawks off to an early start, leading to a 10-point lead by the 4:02 mark in the period. But the Cavs managed to cut the lead to six by quarter’s end. Harris shot 3-for-5 from the floor and a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line during the period.
But it was the sloppy play by both teams that set the pace for a lackluster second quarter. Despite the Cavs giving up only three points on two turnovers, and Atlanta throwing it away four times for six Cleveland points, the ball was mishandled so many times by so many players during one span, the referees were working overtime.
“That’s the part of coaching that’s difficult…when you go through those sloppy moments,” said Atlanta Coach Larry Drew. “It could be fatigue, lack of focus or the other team. When you get in those type moments, we just have to settle down.”
When the dust finally cleared, the Hawks had shot 55.6 percent from the floor compared to 52.4 percent by Cleveland. Atlanta’s advantage supported an 11-point lead midway through the period, but Cleveland cut it back to five with 43.0 seconds left before halftime. Jeff Teague’s 27-footer from beyond the arc gave Atlanta a 52-44 lead at intermission.
But the Cavs just wouldn’t go away, pulling to within three, 58-56, with 8:16 left in the third. The Hawks then mounted an 18-6 run, led by eight more points by Harris, to end the period with an 11-point lead.
Cleveland did manage to cut the deficit to six at 8:10 in the final stanza, with 15 points coming from reserve Marreese Speights. Atlanta’s Josh Smith then hit a 20-foot jumper and Harris added a running layup to squelch any hopes of a Cleveland rally.
Harris led the game with a season-high 25 points. Teague contributed 19 points and nine assists, while Al Horford added 16. Smith came close to a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists for Atlanta.
Speights finished with 23 and Shaun Livingston added 14 for the Cavs.