THE FACTS: Point guard Kyrie Irving scored 18 of his game-high 33 points in the third quarter, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 99-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night. Power forward Tristan Thompson added 11 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland (9-28), while center Tyler Zeller had 11 points and a career-high 12 boards. Atlanta (20-14) small forward Josh Smith collected 17 points, eight rebounds and a season-best six blocked shots. Point guard Jeff Teague had 15 points and a game-high eight assists. The Cavaliers' 16-point margin of victory equaled their largest since March 21, 2010, while the Hawks lost their fourth straight game.
QUOTABLE: "Things aren't going too good for us right now. You're going to have struggles like this throughout the season, and it's better to have them early than later. We've got to get back to playing beautiful basketball."
-- Hawks small forward Josh Smith
THE STAT: Atlanta only attempted five free throws, matching its all-time low since joining the NBA in 1949-1950 as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. "We settled for jump shots time and time again tonight -- and you can't play like that when they're not going in," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "You have to be more aggressive attacking the basket and trying to get to the foul line." Atlanta finished the night 2-for-5 from the charity stripe, which tied for the fifth-fewest free throws made in NBA history. "Our shot selection was not good," Drew said flatly.
TURNING POINT: The Cavaliers outscored the Hawks 26-12 over the final 8:47 of the third quarter, breaking open what had been a 51-51 game. Shooting guard Dion Waiters started the prolonged run with a 3-pointer that put Cleveland ahead for good at 54-51. Irving scored 16 points during the surge, making 5 of his 7 field goals, going 2-for-3 on 3s and 4-for-4 on free throws. "I was just trying to show our guys that you have to play the full 48 minutes, especially when the other team tries to ramp it up," Irving said. "But this was clearly a team win."
QUOTABLE II: "Honestly, we put ourselves in this situation. The last four games, we've been struggling with ourselves. Not to take anything away from Cleveland -- they're a pretty good young team with a good coach -- but we are my main concern."
-- Hawks center Zaza Pachulia
HOT: Cavaliers point guard Shaun Livingston played 21 strong minutes off the bench, collecting eight points, four rebounds and a team-high five assists. He also has moved ahead of Jeremy Pargo as Irving's primary backup. ... Cleveland small forward Alonzo Gee made a career-high five 3-pointers. ... Irving was 11-for-15 on field goals, including 5-for-6 on 3s, and 6-for-6 from the foul line. ... The Cavaliers are 2-1 against the Hawks this season. ... Pachulia led Atlanta with 10 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup. ... Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver had 12 points, seven rebounds and no turnovers in a team-high 38 minutes.
NOT: The Cavaliers only dressed 10 players with center Anderson Varejao (right knee), shooting guards C.J. Miles (back strain) and Daniel Gibson (concussion), and power forward Luke Walton (personal reasons) all out. ... Waiters made his first start since Dec. 29 at Brooklyn -- filling in for last-minute scratch Miles -- but didn't score a point until his go-ahead 3 in the third. The fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft wound up 4-for-11 from the field. ... Hawks point guard Lou Williams, who was shifted to a reserve role, had five points and zero assists in 21 minutes. ... Smith air-balled a free-throw attempt in the fourth.
QUOTABLE III: "Everyone in this building feels bad for Andy [Varejao]. His production, effort, and overall morale will truly be missed, which is why we all have to step up for him. But other guys also have to look at this as an opportunity."
-- Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving
GOOD MOVE: Hawks point guard Devin Harris (left foot soreness) played in his first game since Dec. 18 at Washington, but Drew eased him back into the flow by bringing him off the bench. Harris was limited to 12 minutes and failed to score. ... Second-year pro Thompson and rookie Zeller were aggressive from the get-go for the Cavaliers, which was critical in overcoming Atlanta's size advantage in the post with the 6-foot-11 Pachulia and the 6-10 Horford. "That's the way their coach [Byron Scott] wanted them to play, which is smart," Pachulia said.
BAD MOVE: Drew changed his starting lineup one night after calling the Hawks "soft" following their 108-103 loss in Minnesota. Pachulia replaced Williams in a much bigger first five -- allowing power forward Al Horford, Smith and Korver to all slide down one spot -- but Atlanta only won the rebounding battle 46-45. The Cavaliers also outscored the Hawks on second-chance points, 17-12. "Cleveland is a big rebounding team, which is why the glass was a big part of our emphasis," Drew said. "We did not do a good enough job on the glass tonight."
NOTABLE: NBA rebounding leader Varejao will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a split vastus medialis, which is the muscle that connects to the border of the patella. The Brazilian star has not played since taking a hard fall to the court on Dec. 18 against Toronto. "It's very frustrating because I tried to come back and was working hard every day," said Varejao, who is expected to miss 6-8 more weeks. "The injury is nothing really serious, but it does need surgery to repair it." ... Hawks shooting guards Anthony Morrow (right hip strain) and DeShawn Stevenson (knee soreness) both missed the game with injuries. ... The Cavaliers begin a five-game Western Conference road trip Friday. Their next contest at Quicken Loans Arena is Jan. 22 against Boston.
UP NEXT: For the Hawks, Friday vs. Utah, Saturday @ Washington, Monday @ Chicago. For the Cavaliers, Friday @ Denver, Sunday @ L.A. Lakers, Monday @ Sacramento.