CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cavaliers coach Byron Scott calls it a lack of experience. No matter, the Cavs continue to have issues finishing games, and it was evident again Friday night in a tough 102-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Cleveland led 92-91 after a Tyler Zeller free throw with 3:57 remaining, but from there were outscored 11-2, as the Hawks used smart basketball to run away with the win.
The loss puts the Cavs at 7-24, while Atlanta, who the Cavs will rematch with at the Q on January 9th, improve to 18-9.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 28 points, while Dion Waiters added 18 in the loss.
The Hawks got a career-high 27 from Jeff Teague, hitting 11-for-19 from the field. Atlanta nailed 13-for-24 from three-point range on the night.
Lou Williams scored 16 points for Atlanta, which is 8-4 on the road. Al Horford added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Cavaliers center Anderson Varajeo, the league’s leading rebounder, missed his fifth straight game with a bruised right knee. He’s also been ruled out of Saturday’s game against Brooklyn. Guard Daniel Gibson left the game in the second quarter with a head injury and did not return.
Irving’s drive gave Cleveland a 94-93 lead with 2:53 to play, but Teague’s jumper gave Atlanta the lead for good. Horford followed with a jump shot for a three-point lead before Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer stretched the lead to eight with 1:21 remaining.
Atlanta scored the game’s first eight points and lead by as many as 11 in the first half. The Cavaliers chipped away at the lead in the second quarter and Irving hit a running 30-footer to beat the halftime buzzer to cut Atlanta’s lead to 55-54. The shot brought the crowd to its feet and Irving exchanged chest bumps with several teammates as he ran to the locker room.
The basket seemed to spark the Cavaliers, who scored the first six points of the second half and raced to a 68-59 lead.
Atlanta used a 16-6 run to take a 75-74 lead. Cleveland led 80-75 going into the fourth quarter, but Atlanta went on another spurt to take an 83-82 lead on Teague’s dunk following a steal.
C.J. Miles and Irving followed with 3-pointers to put Cleveland ahead 88-83, but Atlanta rallied again. The Hawks avenged a 113-11 loss in Atlanta on Nov. 30. Atlanta has won its last four games in Cleveland. The Cavaliers haven’t won three in a row since March 7-11 of last season. Cleveland has also lost four straight at Quicken Loans Arena.
Atlanta guard Anthony Morrow strained his right hip in the second quarter and didn’t return.
The Cavs will be in Brooklyn on Saturday night.