The Cleveland Cavaliers’ dominance of the Atlanta Hawks appears to have carried over from last season to this one.
The Cavaliers look for a second victory over the Hawks in as many nights when two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference conclude a home-and-home set Wednesday night in Cleveland.
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Point guard Mo Williams scored 20 points and LeBron James added 14 with 10 assists as Cleveland (25-8) held the Hawks scoreless for almost nine minutes to open the fourth quarter in a 95-84 victory at Atlanta on Tuesday.
Winners of five in a row and 10 of 11, the Central Division-leading Cavaliers have won their last seven games against Atlanta (21-9), including a four-game sweep of the Hawks in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Cleveland is riding its third five-game winning streak of the season, but has yet to earn a sixth straight win – a feat it pulled off four times in 2008-09. Defense has played a key role in the current run, as the Cavaliers have held each of their last three opponents to fewer than 90 points.
“That’s what we do,” James said. “It’s an ongoing thing. We lock down in the fourth quarter. That’s where games are won. That’s where games are decided.”
Cleveland outscored Atlanta 20-10 in the fourth quarter Tuesday as the Hawks set a season low for points in any quarter.
“It was as disheartening as it ever could be,” said Josh Smith, whose basket ended the Hawks’ 0-for-10 fourth-quarter drought with 3:12 remaining in the game.
Things won’t get any easier for the Hawks, who are 2-3 since winning six in a row and have lost six straight at Cleveland, including the two played there during the 2009 postseason.
“We have to go to Cleveland and see what we’re made of,” coach Mike Woodson said.
Jamal Crawford had 26 points off the bench and Joe Johnson added 15 on Tuesday for the Hawks, who are averaging 104.9 points but are 1-5 when they fail to score 90.
Atlanta is averaging 82.9 points and shooting 40.4 percent during the losing streak to Cleveland.
Crawford is scoring 23.8 points on 55.6 percent shooting in his last four games overall. Atlanta’s offseason acquisition has also enjoyed success against the Cavs, averaging 22.4 points and shooting 50.6 percent the last five times he’s faced them.
James went 6 for 20 from the field Tuesday and failed to score at least 20 points for the first time in 13 games, but he had 10 assists for the second time in four contests.
“A lot of teams are trying to force me to pass the ball, which is OK,” said James, averaging 27.2 points and 6.5 assists in 22 regular season games against the Hawks. “I have guys that can make shots. A lot of teams don’t think my guys can make plays out on the court. And I’m OK with that, because I have a lot of faith in my teammates.”
In the case of Williams, that faith is well-founded. He’s averaging 23.8 points on 52.7 percent shooting in his last five games overall, and 22.6 points in his last five matchups with Atlanta.