None of the Hawks moves in the offseason to better suit a matchup against the Cavaliers matter on Friday night, as Cleveland knocked down a record 25 3-pointers to beat a resilient Atlanta team, 135-130.
Trailing 117-102 with six minutes left in the game, the Hawks offense exploded for a late run at the Cavs. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Paul Millsap scored 16 of the Hawks next 21 points to go on a 21-7 run that suddenly put Atlanta down by one — the closest it had been since it was 4-4.
In true Atlanta form, Kyle Korver, making his first return to Philips since the trade, sent the dagger into the Hawks with an off-the-screen 3-pointer that gave the Cavs their 25th 3-pointer.
After fouls and baskets were exchanged in the late seconds, the Cavs escaped with the win. Their 25 3-pointers broke the record for the most made by a team in a regular season game. The only other time a team made 25 in a game was also by the Cavs — and also against the Hawks — last season in the second round of the playoffs.
Hardaway Jr. led the Hawks with 36 points off the bench in 35 minutes. He shot 13 of 20 from the field, 5 of 9 from 3-point range and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Millsap added 27 points and nine rebounds. Dwight Howard finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 81 points, 15 rebounds and 17 assists on 28-48 shooting from the field. They also made 11 combined 3-pointers to carry the Cavs in a two-man effort.
In the first quarter, the Cavs quickly showed that nothing had changed from the last two seasons. Cleveland jumped out to a 20-9 lead in the first six minutes of the game, shooting 6 of 12 from the field with four threes. The trend continued over the rest of the period. The Cavs went 7 of 12 from deep in the quarter, with four different players hitting threes, including one from Korver.
Despite the Hawks shooting 13 of 20 in the period and scoring 33 points, they trailed by six points going into the second quarter. Hardaway Jr. paced the Hawks with eight points in the first, going a perfect 3 of 3 from the field and 2 of 2 on 3-pointers. Irving wowed the crowd with multiple impressive dribble drives and 3-pointers on his way to 13 first-quarter points.
Cleveland continued its ridiculous shooting in the second quarter. Making 15 of 22 shots from the field and 7 of 11 3-pointers, the Cavs went into halftime with a 65 percent field goal percentage and 61 percent 3-point percentage. With 14 makes from deep, the Cavs pace easily shattered the existing regular season game record of 24 3-pointers.
The Hawks, once again, had a respectable second quarter offensively, scoring 27 points on 48 percent shooting. Hardaway Jr. again led Atlanta’s scoring in the period. James took over for the Cavs, scoring 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Irving and James combined to score 45 points in the first half. Despite scoring 60 points in the half, the Hawks found themselves with a 17-point deficit trailing 77-60.
After an Irving free throw put the Cavs ahead by 25 points at 92-67, the Hawks used a quick run to make it a game again. Two Hardaway Jr. free throws gave the Hawks a 15-3 run to cut the lead back to just 13 points. Channing Frye ended the momentum with a 3-pointers, and Irving’s midrange jumper extended Cleveland’s lead back to 18 points with just more than a minute left in the quarter.
Making 9 of 21 shots from the field in the third, the Cavs overall shooting finally cooled down, but the 3-point shooting didn’t. They went just 2 of 9 from inside the arc, but Cleveland made 7 more 3-pointers on 12 attempts, giving them 21 through three quarters. Atlanta had another good quarter offensively, shooting 10 of 21 from the field and scoring 28 points.
The Hawks will be back in action in Atlanta on Sunday for a day game against the Pacers. Stay tuned for more.