ATLANTA — It took 73 games, and the ultimate outcome was the same, but the Cavs finally showed the fight Monday that coach Byron Scott has been waiting to see.
Mo Speights matched his career high with 23 points, but the Cavs fell to the Atlanta Hawks 102-94 to extend their losing streak to nine games.
The Cavs pulled within 63-60 on a layup from Wayne Ellington with 6:54 left in the third, but the Hawks scored 11 consecutive points to take control.
The Cavs played without Kyrie Irving and C.J. Miles. Irving was scheduled to take the night off because it was the second game in a back-to-back, while Miles was a late scratch with a tender ankle he injured in Sunday’s loss at the New Orleans Hornets.
The roster was further depleted when Daniel Gibson was ejected in the second quarter after receiving two quick technical fouls. With the vacancies, Omri Casspi had nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 17 minutes, his most extensive playing time since a Dec. 5 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
After sleepwalking through the last few weeks, the Cavs finally showed a little fire when Gibson was ejected and Luke Walton gave the Hawks’ Ivan Johnson a two-handed shove to the ground in the fourth after Johnson hit Walton in the face.
“I’ve been waiting for that all season long. It was good to see,” Scott said. “It took a lot longer than I wanted, but I think that also can put to rest the questions of, ‘Have these guys given up or quit?’ I think they played as hard as they can play tonight. They played with that fire and they were physical. If we fight like that every night, we’ll be OK.”
Gibson wanted a foul called after he fell to the ground on a 3-point attempt with 7:07 left in the half. He got up, yelled and angrily pointed at referee John Goble, who quickly gave him the first technical. Then Gibson started jawing with the Hawks’ DeShawn Stevenson during the stoppage in play and he was quickly given a second technical and ejected. It was the second time in his career he has been ejected from a game.
Stevenson has feuded with the Cavs since those memorable playoff series when he was a member of the Washington Wizards, but Gibson said he didn’t have a previous gripe with him.
“Maybe that frustration came out of us,” Gibson said. “Things weren’t going our way, it got physical and we didn’t back down. That’s what Coach wants us to be like, the team he wants us to be.”
The Cavs have struggled terribly on defense for most of the season, so they switched up and played a lot of zone. Scott said it was a decision he made after Sunday’s loss as a way to try to bolster the defense.
- WHO: Cleveland vs. Brooklyn
- WHEN: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- WHERE: The Q
- TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM