Cavs Drop OT Thriller in Atlanta

Kyrie's Late Heroics Not Enough as Hawks Sweep Cavs
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

In two previous meetings against Atlanta, the Cavaliers lost by 27 and 16 points, respectively. But Wednesday’s one-point loss was easily the toughest.

At two separate points late in the affair, it looked like the Wine and Gold would snap the Hawks’ recent run against them, but on both occasions, the Hawks answered in dramatic fashion – sending the Cavs to the painful 103-102 overtime loss at Philips Arena.

Near the end of regulation – with the Hawks up one, 88-87, Kyrie Irving scored on a layup with 1:02 to play to give Cleveland back the lead. Less than a minute later, after an Atlanta offensive foul, Irving scored again, giving the Cavs a three-point edge – 91-88 – with 5.4 to play.

But Joe Johnson splashed home a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

In the extra session, the Cavaliers smelled victory again – taking a 101-95 lead with 1:27 remaining. But Johnson struck again, canning a three-pointer to make it a one-possession game. After an Antawn Jamison miss, the Hawks scored on that one possession, with Josh Smith converting a three-point play.

Tristan Thompson split a pair of free throws to give Cleveland another one-point lead, 102-101. But Johnson plunged the final dagger into the Cavs with 18 seconds to play – sinking a 14-foot fadeaway to put Atlanta back ahead.

On the Cavs final possession, Irving’s 19-footer drew back iron and Alonzo Gee couldn’t hit the put-back as time expired – giving Atlanta the season sweep.

“We gave them the game,” said a disappointed Byron Scott. “We just made some bad decisions at the end. We played harder tonight than we did on Sunday, and we had a chance at the end to win, it just didn’t happen.”

Irving almost pulled off another late-game push – netting 16 of his team-high 29 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. One game after notching his first career double-double, the former No. 1 pick barely missed his first triple-double – adding nine boards and nine assists. Irving added three steals, but also committed a game-high seven turnovers.

“It was a tough loss,” said Irving. “Losing to them twice in four days is tough. Now we have to move on to the next game. I thought my shot at the end was in, but it’s the law of averages. They’re not all going to go in.”

Antawn Jamison did double-up with 23 points and 12 rebounds, going 9-for-17 from the floor. Tristan Thompson followed his 27-point effort on Monday with a 13-point, five-rebound performance against Atlanta.

Manny Harris rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 11 points.

The Hawks featured six players in double-figures, including all five starters plus Jerry Stackhouse. Josh Smith had a monster night, leading both teams with 32 points and 17 boards.

The Cavaliers lead 36-21 after one quarter, but the Hawks bounced back with a 33-17 second period. The game was nip-and-tuck for the next two-and-a-half quarters.

Cleveland shot 46 percent and out-rebounded Atlanta, 54-38. But the Hawks killed the Cavs in transition, 23-3, and committed just seven miscues to Cleveland’s 19.

The Wine and Gold wrap up their three-game roadie on Friday night in central Florida, when they take on Dwight Howard and the Magic.

  • Tristan Thompson split his final pair of free throws and finished 3-of-6 on the night, but heading into Wednesday’s game, since March 13, Thompson had gone12 of his last15 from the stripe.

  • Alonzo Gee led the Cavs with 13 boards in Wednesday’s loss to Atlanta. Before the game, Coach Byron Scott was effusive in his praise of the third-year forward.

    “(GM) Chris (Grant) and I have talked about him and he’s the type of person you want in your organization,” said Scott. “He’s the type of kid who personifies everything we talk about. He works his butt off on the court, he’s a great kid, great outside of basketball. Great with fans, very humble. He’s a guy we’ve talked about a couple times, (thinking), ‘Hey, we have to make sure he comes back.’”

  • With Boobie out, nursing a sprained left ankle, Manny Harris got some extended minutes at the two-guard. In 20 minutes, Harris finished with 11 points and six boards.

  • Another Cavalier who’s been desperately seeking P.T. is Semih Erden, who finally got some run on Wednesday after failing to see action since March 2 against Chicago.

  • The Cavs are only one of four teams – joining the Nets, Nuggets and Hornets – to have a better road record than at home.

  • Traveling to different arenas, it’s curious to see which banners hang in the rafters. (Michael Jordan’s “23” in Miami comes to mind.) At Philips Arena, there’s a banner commemorating Widespread Panic’s 15 consecutive sold-out shows between 1999 and 2006.

  • The ATL is getting ready for March Madness at Philips Arena. As the Cavaliers were concluding shootaround on Wednesday morning, the U. of Indiana was preparing to practice for Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup vs. Kentucky.

  • If Kyrie Irving can continue on his current pace – (18.7 ppg, 5.6 apg, .472 FG) – he’ll join the foursome of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Grant Hill and Magic Johnson as the only players to average those numbers in a rookie season.