CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It was a tough day for the Cavaliers, learning that they would be without their big man, Andy Varejao for the next six to eight weeks.
With Varejao looking on less than 24 hours before he goes under the knife at the Cleveland Clinic for his muscle split in his leg, the Cavs took it to the struggling Atlanta Hawks, winning 99-83.
It was the largest margin of victory for the Cavs this season, and their biggest win over the Hawks in nearly six years.
“I think the biggest thing was just having fun, going out having fun, playing hard and staying together,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “I told them, let’s do those three things and see what happens.”
The Cavs got a huge night from Kyrie Irving, who went off for 33 points on 11-for-15 shooting, adding 15 on 5-for-6 from three-point range.
Irving also went off for 18 points in the third quarter when the Cavs pulled away at the end of the quarter to lead by 14 at 77-63. The 18 was a career-high in that quarter for Irving.
“I don’t think he was out of control at all,” Scott said of Irving. “He let the offense come to him, and I think he had all facets going for him, which was good.”
The Cavs were 12-for-23 from three-point range on the night, while the Hawks hit just five three’s in the contest.
Two other Cavs big men, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller both had double-doubles, with Thompson going for 11 points and 14 rebounds, and Zeller added 11 points and 12 boards.
“I don’t know if we need that type of performance every single night (from Thompson and Zeller), but it would be nice,” Scott said. “We’re going to need four to five guys to play well.”
The win was just the 9th this season for the Cavs against 28 losses, and the Hawks drop to 20-14. Atlanta has lost four in a row to fall further behind Miami in the Southeast Division.
The Cavs played a strong first quarter, with Irving hitting a three at the buzzer to put them ahead 29-28. Atlanta shot 68 percent in the quarter, yet trailed by one.
The second quarter they clamped down on the Hawks, holding them to just 12 points as they ran their lead to nine at the half, outscoring the Hawks 20-12 to lead it 49-40 at the break.
Atlanta started the third with a run to close it to two, but the Cavs put together a strong end of the quarter to lead it by 14 and to start to put the game away.
The Cavs totally outplayed the Hawks in all the key categories, not bad considering Atlanta was 7-2 on the second night of back-to-back games.
Cleveland starts a five-game trip out west starting on Friday night when they take on Dever at 9pm.