CLEVELAND — Once again the Hawks dug themselves too deep a hole.
This is becoming a bad trend – a very bad trend.
After falling behind by 19 points, the Hawks staggered home on a four-game losing streak following Wednesday’s 99-83 loss to the injury-riddled Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Hawks (20-14) have lost five of their past six. Their latest defeat came one day after the fell behind by 17 points at the Timberwolves before a furious comeback fell short. Their third-place standing in the Eastern Conference is gone. They have lost two games since having a team meeting aimed at resolving their issues of late.
Coach Larry Drew adjusted his lineup, starting Zaza Pachulia at center, but perhaps more changes are in store for the struggling Hawks.
“I’m a little concerned,” Drew said. “Anytime you go through a little bump in the road you have to look at your team, look at what you are doing and try to find some answers. We go home now and (Thursday) is a day where we are going to have to look for some answers. Maybe I need to shake up the lineup a little more. Maybe I need to do some things differently. I’ve got to do something to get this team jump started again and I will.”
The Cavaliers (9-28) won the season series against the Hawks (2-1) despite missing four players – Anderson Varejao (knee surgery), C.J. Miles (back), Daniel Gibson (concussion) and Luke Walton (personal). The margin of victory was easily the biggest of the season.
Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 33 points, 18 in the third quarter, to lead the Cavaliers. Cleveland now has just one home victory in each month of the season. Their last home victory came Dec. 11 against the Lakers.
“It’s just bad that on the streak we are going he had to have a game like that against us,” Josh Smith said of Irving.
Smith had 17 points and eight rebounds for the Hawks. He missed two free throws with five minutes remaining, one an air ball, that punctuated the loss for the Hawks. Jeff Teague finished with 15 points.
“Right now things are going too well for us,” Smith said. “We understand that. … It’s a marathon not a sprint. You are going to have stretches like this during the season. I’m just hope it’s earlier rather than later.”
The Hawks erased a nine-point halftime deficit by starting the third quarter on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 51-51. Teague scored seven of the points in the run. Up to that point, Teague had seven points and seven fouls in the past one and a half games. The rally was short-lived as the Cavaliers answered with an 11-2 run of their own.
By the end of the quarter the Cavaliers held a 14-point advantage thanks to Irving, who scored his team’s last 12.
The Cavaliers took a 49-40 into halftime as the Hawks struggled from the field in the second quarter. The Hawks shot just 22.7 percent (5 of 22) and scored just 12 points in the period. Smith and Al Horford were each 1 of 6.
“It’s hard to fall behind like that,” Horford said. “I think that for some reason or another we have really low energy as a team. I think we spend too much time trying to fight back. I don’t think it has anything to do with anything that we are doing wrong. I just think the energy is not all there. It has to be all there. All of us have to be doing it together and that’s not the case.”
The Hawks shot 68.4 percent (13 of 19) in the opening quarter. They still trailed by a point, 29-28, as seven of the Cavaliers’ 11 field goals were 3-pointers. The final long-range shot from Irving came at the first-quarter buzzer.
The Hawks attempted just five free throws in the game, making two. Drew said once again his team settled for too many jump shots.
- Chris Vivlamore
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