AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — A hot-shooting night has the Atlanta Hawks back in sole possession of a playoff spot.
Poor shooting cost the Cavaliers in a game they desperately needed.
Mike Scott ended a scoring slump with 26 points and the Hawks beat Cleveland 117-98 on Friday night in a costly setback for the Cavaliers’ late-season playoff push.
Atlanta moved one game ahead of the New York Knicks, who lost to Washington 90-89, in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks had lost seven of eight but recovered with strong games by Scott and Jeff Teague, who had 20 points and 12 assists.
“All year and under a lot of difference circumstances we’ve said we like our group and they’re resilient,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They played with a lot of focus and effort and attention to detail and all the things we really talk about every night.”
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was unhappy to see his team struggle with so much on the line.
“They kicked our behind from the beginning to the end,” Brown said.
The Cavaliers lost an opportunity to move within a game of eighth place. Entering the game, Cleveland had won five of six but fell three games behind the Hawks with only five games remaining in the regular season.
Brown was discouraged, but stopped short of saying the Cavaliers couldn’t recover from the loss.
“No, it doesn’t feel like it’s over, but the loss is very, very disappointing,” Brown said. “The way we lost it looked like we weren’t playing for much out there.”
Dion Waiters led Cleveland with 23 points. Spencer Hawes had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng each had 13 points.
Scott made 12-of-13 shots from the field. The backup forward had a combined 16 points in his past four games. He topped that with 18 in the first half.
“Finally,” Scott said. “I was in a little shooting slump. I just kept being aggressive and kept getting extra shots and they finally fell.”
The Hawks set a season high with 39 first-quarter points, shot .585 from the field and never trailed. Atlanta led by 16 points after the first period.
“The start that we got off to was something that was important,” Budenholzer said. “Defensively, I thought we had a good first quarter. I think that kind of fueled our offense and our ball movement a little bit, taking care of the ball. That gave us the cushion that we were able to keep the rest of the game.”
The Hawks had 35 assists, three away from their season high.
The Cavaliers made only 5-of-21 3-pointers and shot .396 from the field overall while playing from behind.
“They jumped on us early,” said Cleveland’s Jarrett Jack, who had nine points. “They dictated how this game was going to be played. We were playing an uphill battle all game.”
The Hawks had six 3-pointers in the big first quarter and 13 for the game.
Atlanta committed nine turnovers in the second quarter, but Cleveland still outscored the Hawks only 26-22 in the period and trailed 61-49 at halftime.
As Cleveland opened the second half going almost five minutes without a field goal, Teague took over for Atlanta. Teague had nine points in the third period, including three straight baskets and a driving layup to beat the buzzer at the end of the period.
Teague added two 3-pointers in the last three minutes as the Cavaliers never mounted a serious challenge.
Paul Millsap had 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Hawks. Lou Williams also had 16 points and six assists.
|After missing one game with a sore right shoulder, Cavs center Anderson Varejao had nine points and five rebounds in 27 minutes.
Irving played his second game after missing eight games with a torn bicep muscle.
Hawes had 13 points in the third period.