As the Hawks prepared for the opening tipoff against the Cavaliers, Josh Smith pointed at Jeff Teague. It was a meaningful gesture as if to tell the point guard “It starts with you.”
Did it ever.
Teague scored a career-high 27 points, including 14 in the first half, as the Hawks rallied late for a 102-94 victory over the Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Hawks (18-9) used a 9-0 run, the final points of the game, after trailing 94-93 to pull out their third consecutive win. They got a basket from Teague, a basket and two free throws from Al Horford and a 3-pointer from Kyle Korver to seal the hard-fought victory.
The Hawks also got double-figure scoring from Lou Williams (16), Horford (16), Anthony Tolliver (13) and Korver (11). Teague also had eight assists.
The Cavaliers (7-24) had their two-game win streak snapped. Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Cavaliers. Dion Waiters added 18 points.
His hair was there, but Anderson Varejao was not. The Cavaliers played without the NBA’s leading rebounder on “Anderson Varejao Wig Night” in Cleveland. Hawks coach Larry Drew reminded his team not to let Varejao’s absence have an impact on their play.
“In watching us play, when we play against teams minus players, I don’t know how good our track record is with that,” Drew said before the game. “The mindset going into this game, with them being minus an important player, I think we have to turn it up even more. They came to Atlanta without Kyrie Irving and came in and got a win.
“Minus players means nothing. Teams in this league are capable of beating any team, particularly with key players out.”
The Hawks led 55-54 at halftime despite leading by as many as 11 points in the second quarter.
The Hawks used a 14-3 run in the second quarter to take control early. Much of their 11-point lead was built with bench players, including Tolliver, Zaza Pachulia, Anthony Morrow and Mike Scott. Tolliver scored 11 points in the second quarter, including two 3-pointers, with four rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot.
The Cavaliers closed the gap to a single point at intermission with a 15-5 run that was highlighted by Irving’s crazy running 3-pointer at the buzzer. Waiters and Irving combined for 13 of the points in the run.
The Cavaliers kept the momentum following intermission and went on a 14-4 run to start the third quarter. They opened a nine-point lead, 68-59, before the Hawks made a run of their own. Aided by two consecutive 3-pointers from Korver and one each from Lou Williams and Teague they briefly regained lead. The Cavaliers scored the final six points, four on free throws by Alonzo Gee, and took an 80-75 lead into the final quarter.
The Cavaliers lost guard Daniel Gibson in the second quarter with a head injury after he took an inadvertent hand to the face by Morrow. The Hawks then lost Morrow for the second half with a strained right hip muscle.
- Drew acknowledged that Smith’s late-game shooting issues against the Pistons on Wednesday as “poor shot selection” and said the two have spoken and are ready to move on. Despite finishing with 31 points, Smith combined to score only one point in the fourth quarter and both overtimes. He was 13-of-18 shooting through three quarters but 0-of-7 in the final 22 minutes. “It was just poor shot selection,” Drew said. “He knows it. We’ve already talked about it. That was a game where I thought he probably settled a little too much on the perimeter. He acknowledged it. We look at tape and we talk about it and we just move on.”
- The Hawks played without forward Ivan Johnson, who missed the game because of a stomach illness. Johnson traveled with the team to Cleveland on Thursday, but was unable to take part in Friday morning’s shootaround. Assistant coach Lester Conner did not travel and missed the game because of a similar illness. Drew intended to rest DeShawn Stevenson against the Cavs so he could use his veteran defensive presence against the Pacers’ Paul George on Saturday.
- The Hawks also were without point guard Devin Harris for the fifth consecutive game because of a sore left foot. Harris did not travel with the team, and his status for Saturday’s home game against the Pacers likely will be a game-time decision.
- Williams remained in the starting lineup at shooting guard. It was the third consecutive start for Williams after coming off the bench in 173 consecutive career games.