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Cavaliers Vs. Hawks: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson Carry Atlanta Past Cleveland

<strong>Ice Water</strong> Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE
Ice Water Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

The Atlanta Hawks came from behind more than once to capture a 103-102 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game set up bad for the Hawks who were coming off of a tough loss on Monday to the Celtics to face Cleveland who they had beaten six straight times by an average of nearly 17 points.

Credit the Cavaliers for landing the first punch as they jumped all over Atlanta to the tune of a 36-21 lead at the end of the first quarter on 62 percent shooting. The Hawks came back in the second behind the play of Josh Smith and Jerry Stackhouse to take a 54-53 lead at halftime. Even after blowing a 16 point lead in the first half, the Cavaliers weren't too disappointed and they went toe to toe with the Hawks during the second half.

With Joe Johnson struggling and Josh Smith seemingly having to do everything, the Hawks had to work doubly hard on the offensive end. However, it was the defensive end of the floor where Cleveland hurt them the most. Atlanta had little answer for Kyrie Irving who seemed to get where he wanted when he wanted no matter the situation. Combine that with Antawn Jamison suddenly finding his jump shot and the Hawks were in a world of trouble throughout.

We talked yesterday about this team's resiliency this year and it was on full display in this game. They didn't play well at all against Cleveland yet they were still in position to win the game. Josh Smith helped get them to that point before tiring late and Joe Johnson woke up just in time to take over for Smith.

Johnson's three with 1:11 remaining in regulation put the Hawks up 88-87 and came off some nice ball movement from the Hawks. Irving answered back with a driving score where it seemed like he went by four different Atlanta defenders on the play. On the next possession, Jeff Teague was whistled for an offensive foul on a drive with Atlanta down one and just 26 seconds remaining.

Larry Drew made the curious decision to not foul which would have left the Hawks with just a couple of seconds and some change if the Cavaliers used the entire clock. Irving left the Hawks a little more time than that but not before he got inside yet again for another lay in to put Atlanta down 91-88 with just five seconds remaining.

Atlanta took the basketball out of bounds at midcourt with the Cavaliers having a foul to give. Johnson inbounded to Teague who held the ball while Joe came up the middle of the lane off of a double pick. Teague passed to Johnson who buried the game-tying shot from to of the arc as time expired in regulation. Cleveland could have fouled Teague or they could have simply switched off of the screens onto Johnson as the Hawks had to have a three to tie. They did neither and the game went into overtime.

Credit the Cavaliers again for not folding after basically giving the Hawks a chance at the end of regulation. Irving and company went back to work and Atlanta trailed 101-95 with just 1:27 remaining. After a Hawks' time out Johnson went back to work knocking down a three to pull Atlanta to within 101-98. Then Jamison missed a jumper that Kirk Hinrich flipped to Josh Smith. No one from the Cavs stopped the basketball and Josh drove all the way to the basket scoring with the foul. He made the free throw and Atlanta had once again tied the game with 58 seconds to go.

The Cavs weren't finished as a Tristan Thompson free throw put them up 102-101 with 30 seconds left. Larry Drew called time to set up the guard-to-guard screen and roll between Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague that Atlanta has used frequently at crunch time of games. Johnson turned the corner off of Teague's screen and hit a nice little fall away jumper along the baseline giving the Hawks a 103-102 lead with just 18 seconds left.

On the Cavs final possession, Kyrie Irving missed a pull up jumper off the glass and Alonzo Gee missed the follow. Zaza Pachulia grabbed the rebound as time expired and the Hawks escaped with the win.

Forget Josh Smith's 10-29 shooting effort for a moment and just focus on 51+ minutes played and 32 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Smith also was 12-14 from the free throw line including some crucial makes down the stretch despite clearly being out of gas. Without Smith there is no comeback and Larry Drew is probably resting starters at the end of regulation and getting ready for Friday night.

Through three quarters Joe Johnson was 2-10 for nine points. He finished 7-19 for 22 points, six rebounds and five assists without a turnover. Cleveland didn't allow Johnson to beat up on Alonzo Gee and Anthony Parker the way they did last Sunday instead sending much quicker double teams at him whenever he tried to get into the post. However, the Cavs didn't do anything to prevent Johnson from beating them late which was a stark contrast to the tactics the Celtics used on Monday.

Zaza Pachulia finished with 14 points and seven rebounds while playing nearly 48 minutes. Jeff Teague finished with 12 points, seven assists and four steals and Kirk Hinrich chipped in 10. Jerry Stackhouse provided a lift off the bench with 10 points in just over 10 minutes of playing time.

Kyrie Irving just missed a triple double with 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Antawn Jamison added 23 points and 12 boards while Tristan Thompson chipped in 13. Manny Harris scored 11 points off the bench.

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