Vivlamore reporting from Philips Arena.
The Hawks were duly warned not to take the Cavaliers lightly.
The message didn’t sink in.
The Hawks (9-5) lost a nine-point fourth-quarter lead and dropped a 113-111 decision, snapping a six-game win streak, at Philips Arena Friday night. Alonzo Gee’s rebound and put back of a Dion Waiters airballed 3-pointer with .4 seconds remaining gave the Cavaliers (4-12) the win, snapping their four-game losing streak.
“Ball watching,” Josh Smith said of his failure to box out Gee. “I didn’t make a conscious effort. I knew that Gee is aggressive going for the offensive rebound. That was a stop that we really needed. It was just messed up that it had to be my man to get the rebound and the put back. I’ll definitely make a conscious effort on the next team to box my man out every time.”
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he heard Smith tell his teammates following the game that the loss was on him. He disagreed. The Hawks were beaten badly on the boards all night, losing the battle 49-28. The Hawks also couldn’t contain the Cavaliers’ dribble penetration. Guard Jeremy Pargo had 22 points and Waiters had 21 points as the Cavs played without star guard Kylie Irving (broken finger).
“Coming into the tunnel, I heard Josh Smith mention it was his fault,” Drew said. “He didn’t get the box out at the end. I said ‘Josh, you know what? It wasn’t your fault. That game should have never come down to the last play.’ If we would have shown up the way we are capable of, it wouldn’t have come down to the last play.”
Smith led six Hawks in double-figures with a game-high 25 points. Lou Williams had 18 points followed by Al Horford (11 rebounds) and Jeff Teague with 15, Devin Harris with 13 and DeShawn Stevenson with 12.
The Cavaliers erased a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and took a 99-97 lead on a Daniel Gibson 3-pointer with 4:25 remaining. They went up by six points, 105-99, on six straight points by Pargo. The Hawks scored the next six points, a three-point play by Teague and a 3-pointer by Williams, to even the score with 1:16 remaining.
Anderson Varejao answered with an inside basket. After a wayward pass by Smith intended for Horford went out of bounds, Dion Waiters scored a layup to go up by four points with 25.5 seconds remaining.
Smith hit a 3-pointer with 18.1 seconds left to cut the lead to one point, 109-108. Varejao hit a pair of free throws with 15.8 remaining but Williams answered with a 3-pointer two seconds later to tie the game at 111-111.
“He made some shots,” Teague said of Pargo. “He’s a capable player. He got to the rim. It was just my fault he got to the rim. I’ve got to get on the pick-and-roll a lot faster. Some of those were lucky shots, I’m just going to say it. He hit a double pump 3-pointer. When a guy gets hot, a guy gets hot.”
Varejao led the Cavaliers with 20 points and 18 rebounds. It was the NBA’s leading rebounder’s 11th double-double of the season, including seven straight.
“They were really going after everything, a lot of long rebounds,” Horford said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job containing them. Even at the end of the game, that last play, Alonzo Gee creeping in there and getting that rebound that was the story of the game.
“I think this was a reality check for us in a way that we need to get back to work and get better on the defensive end.”
The Cavs led 54-50 with 3:30 remaining in the second quarter. Smith started a 17-2 run to close the first half with a 3-pointer. He scored the first seven points of the run. Ivan Johnson scored the last five points including a long-range 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Hawks a 67-56 lead.
The Hawks called a timeout with two seconds remaining in the half. Al Horford threw long to Johnson, who turned and dribbled twice and took the shot. He was mobbed by teammates as the Hawks scored 38 second-quarter points. The 67 first-half points was a season-high, besting the 58 points they scored in the win over the Kings.
“As I told the guys after the game, maybe we needed a game like this,” Drew said. “We’ve been home for a while. We dodged a couple of bullets with some teams. Washington came in here and we were in a similar scenario. Charlotte came in here in a similar scenario. Maybe we needed a game like this. I don’t know.”
The Hawks will take off Saturday and Sunday before returning to practice on Monday. They host the Nuggets on Wednesday and the Wizards on Friday to end a stretch of seven of eight games at home.
- Chris Vivlamore