CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers were handed a surprise Tuesday night.
Cleveland (6-1) cut into two large second-half deficits, but Atlanta converted clutch shots down the stretch.
”It was a weird game,” said LeBron James, who scored 23 points after having only two in the first half.
Atlanta led by 18 points in the third quarter before Cleveland cut the margin to two. The Hawks rebuilt the lead to 15 early in the fourth, but the Cavaliers got within two with 25 seconds remaining.
Kent Bazemore, who scored 25 points, hit a jumper from the corner with 7 seconds left and put the game away.
”They’ve dominated the Eastern Conference for a long time now,” Bazemore said. ”They’re definitely the measuring stick, and we passed our first test tonight.”
Atlanta had lost 11 straight to Cleveland, including playoff sweeps the last two seasons.
”For my two years here, they’ve kicked our butts,” Bazemore said. ”This is one of the biggest wins I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
”Give them a lot of credit,” James said. ”They played a heck of a game. You know toward the end of the season they’ll be right there.”
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 29 points while Love added 24, but the Cavaliers were 11 of 42 on 3-point attempts.
”I think they might have had one of those nights, but our guys were really committed out there,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. ”Our defense in the first half gave us a cushion, and we were able to hold them off.”
Cleveland cut a 96-81 deficit to 101-97 on James’ basket with 3:14 to play. The Hawks scored the next six points, but 3-pointers by James and Irving made it 106-103 with 48 seconds left.
Milsap’s basket pushed the lead to five, but Love converted a three-point play with 25 seconds remaining before Bazemore hit his clutch shot.
Atlanta finished the second quarter on a 22-6 run to lead 53-42. James didn’t score until he hit a jumper late in the first half.
Atlanta scored the first five points of the third quarter and stretched the lead to 58-42.
Hawks guard Kyle Korver did not travel to Cleveland after the birth of his third child Sunday.
Hawks: Korver is expected to play Wednesday night when Atlanta hosts Chicago. … C Mike Muscala took a hard fall to the court after a dunk in the first quarter but remained in the game. … F Mike Scott (left knee) and C Tiago Splitter (right hamstring) remain sidelined, leaving Atlanta with 12 active players.
Cavaliers: F Tristan Thompson was scoreless with two rebounds in 25 minutes. .. .G J.R. Smith scored six points and was 2 of 13 from the field. … Cleveland Indians players Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley attended the game.
QUEST FOR HISTORY
James is averaging just under a triple-double, leading to the question if he can do it for an entire season. ”I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but if there is anyone who can average a triple-double in this day and age, it’s LeBron,” Budenholzer said.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue believes signing Howard is an important addition for Atlanta.
”They have a dominant post presence,” Lue said. ”He’s very physical. Sometimes he demands double-teams if he gets deep in the paint. He’s going to drive fouls on your big men. They also have a shot blocker.”
Hawks: Host Chicago on Wednesday. The Hawks are 3-1 at Philips Arena this season, with their lone loss to the resurgent Lakers.
Cavaliers: Visit Washington on Friday. The teams split two games at both Quicken Loans Arena and Verizon Center in 2015-16.