The Atlanta Hawks may have just had their signature moment of the season while the Cleveland Cavaliers might have just hit rock bottom. Atlanta trailed by 26 points entering the fourth but rallied to force overtime and stun Cleveland 126-125 in overtime.
The appeared to be dead in the water through three quarters as the Cavaliers bombed away with a barrage of three-point baskets. The Hawks trailed 93-67 entering the fourth when Mike Budenholzer turned yet again to the second unit that provided a spark in Friday’s win at Cleveland.
Atlanta began to chip away but the Cavs still led by 14 with just 3:37 remaining. Things really started to unravel for Cleveland in the final moments of the game. The Cavaliers were leading 109-105 with 18.7 remaining when LeBron James was whistled for a five-second count on the inbounds giving Atlanta back the basketball.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was fouled on the ensuing possession but converted just 1 of 2 at the line to cut the deficit to three with 13 seconds remaining. Kyrie Irving pushed the lead back to five with a pair of free throws 10 seconds later.
That is when things got really crazy. James was then whistled for a foul on a three-point attempt by Paul Millsap with 8.3 showing on the clock. Millsap converted all three attempts to cut the deficit to just two but the Hawks needed a steal. Atlanta then successfully trapped Irving deep in the corner on the inbounds with Kent Bazemore tying him up for a jump ball with just 4.8 seconds remaining. Mike Muscala came up with the loose ball on the jump and Millsap connected at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Cleveland scored the first five points of the overtime period before the Hawks answered back once again. Atlanta uncorked an 8-0 run that was capped off by a Millsap three-pointer to give the Hawks their first lead of the game at 118-116 with 1:12 remaining. James was whistled for his sixth foul during the run and was forced to exit the game.
Kyle Korver put Cleveland back in front with a three from the wing and Kevin Love converted 1 of 2 free throw attempts to make it 120-118 two possessions later. However, the Hawks weren’t going to be denied as Tim Hardaway Jr. found Mike Muscala for a three-pointer from deep in the right corner to put Atlanta back in front 121-120 with just 35.3 remaining.
Kent Bazemore then stole an errant inbounds pass from Love and converted at the other end to put the Hawks up 123-120. Irving was called for a charge on the next possession and Hardaway again sank 1 of 2 at the line to increase the lead to four with 11.6 remaining. Irving dribbled the length of the court and scored with 5.4 remaining to cut the lead to just two but Hardaway sank a pair of free throws to complete the win at the other end.
The Hawks scored just 67 points through the first three quarters but scored 59 in the fourth and overtime.
Irving scored a game-high 45 points for Cleveland while James finished with a triple-double of 32 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
Paul Millsap led Atlanta with 22 points while Hardaway finished with 21 of his own. Muscala tossed in 12 off the bench. Dwight Howard finished with 19 points and five rebounds but neither he nor Dennis Schröder were on the court during any of the fourth or overtime.
With the win, Atlanta takes the season series from the Cavaliers and moves a step closer to nailing down the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks will play their final regular season home game at Philips Arena on Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets before wrapping up the season on the road in Indiana.