By GEORGE HENRY, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Another day, another shocking loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Even so, LeBron James isn’t too concerned about the Cleveland Cavaliers with the playoffs about to start.
“Obviously, the last 10 games we’ve been 5-5,” he said. “We had some good moments and we had some not-so-good moments today. The best thing for our team is we want to go down the stretch, be healthy and put a game plan together.”
Paul Millsap scored 22 points and the Hawks took advantage of Cleveland’s fourth-quarter collapse to overcome a 26-point deficit and stun the Cavaliers 126-125 on Sunday.
Kyrie Irving scored 45 points for Cleveland, and James had a triple-double with 32 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists before the four-time MVP fouled out in overtime.
Tim Hardaway Jr. added 21 points to help Atlanta beat Cleveland for the second time in three days.
The defending champion Cavaliers dropped into a tie with Boston atop the Eastern Conference. Both teams have two regular-season games remaining. If the Cavs and Celtics finish with the same record, Cleveland will get the top seed for winning the season series.
The Hawks wiped out a 26-point deficit in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Cavs 44-18 in the period and forcing overtime on Millsap’s baseline jumper at the buzzer.
Millsap hit a 3 with 1:12 left in overtime to make it 118-116 for Atlanta’s first lead of the game. Mike Muscala’s 3-pointer from the right corner put the Hawks back up by one with 35 seconds left.
The Hawks seized control in the final 21 seconds after Kent Bazemore stole an inbound pass from Kevin Love for a layup and Hardaway hit three free throws.
Atlanta looked disinterested for three quarters, so coach Mike Budenholzer went with two starters, Millsap and Hardaway, and several reserves the rest of the way.
“Give them all the credit,” Millsap said. “That’s what got us back in the game.”
James made a couple of mistakes in the closing seconds of regulation. He committed a turnover by failing to inbound the ball with 18 seconds remaining and fouled Millsap on a 3 attempt 10 seconds later. Millsap hit all three foul shots to make it 111-109 with 8 seconds to go.
Irving scored 15 points in the first quarter. His 3 at the 7:22 mark gave Cleveland its first double-digit lead. The Cavs were up 38-21 entering the second with Irving dribbling and shooting at his leisure against the Hawks’ sloppy defense.
Then everything fell apart in the fourth.
“We became the team that was becoming attacked rather than us attacking,” Irving said. “Once that flip-flops, the game started changing and the momentum shifted.”
The playoff-bound Hawks began the game some momentum after their reserves surprised the Cavs with a 14-point win Friday at Cleveland, but the starters quickly squandered it away. At 42-38, they are one game ahead of Milwaukee for fifth place in the East.
“It’s a great momentum builder,” Hardaway said. “We needed it. We have to give our bench credit. They did a phenomenal job of coming in.”
TOO MANY MINUTES?
Irving played 45 minutes despite soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. He limped off the floor in the third on Friday and returned to play in the fourth, but he had some flaring issues before the game.
Cleveland went 19 for 46 beyond the arc, extending its single-season franchise record of hitting at least 15 in 27 games. The Cavs began the game ranked second in the league in treys made and third in 3-point percentage. They’ve hit 44 in their last two games at Philips Arena, setting the NBA single-game record with 25 in a 135-130 victory on March 3.
Cavs: James has 13 triple-doubles and has scored at least 30 points 23 times this season. … Waived DeAndre Liggins to create an open roster spot in case C Tristan Thompson is sidelined for the playoffs with a sprained right thumb. Thompson has missed three straight games but made the two-game road trip.
Hawks: Had lost 12 of 13 in the series, including the playoffs, before Friday’s win. … The club announced after the game that it became the third team to overcome a deficit of at least 26 points in the fourth quarter and win. The Los Angeles Lakers did it on Dec. 6, 2002 against Dallas and Milwaukee did it at the Omni, Atlanta’s old home floor, on Nov. 25, 1977.
Cavaliers: Visit Miami, where they’ve lost 12 straight, on Monday.
Hawks: Host Charlotte on Tuesday. They are 0-3 in the season series.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)