CLEVELAND - Any ideas the Atlanta Hawks had of extending their seven-game winning streak ended quickly Saturday.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled to a 24-point lead early in the second period in winning their eighth straight game, 102-96 over the Hawks.
“That’s what we wanted to do,” said James, who scored 22 points as the Cavaliers upped their home record to 32-1. “We wanted to first protect home court like we’ve been able to do. We had a lot of energy.”
Too much energy for the Hawks, who were hoping to prove a point against the team with the best record in the NBA. Instead, it turned into an afternoon of frustration for Atlanta, which found itself behind 40-16 with 8:56 left in the second quarter.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson picked up technical fouls in the second and third periods and was ejected by official Joe Forte with 6:30 left in the third period. Mike Bibby and Josh Smith were also hit with technicals in the third period.
Woodson didn’t speak with reporters after the game, instead sending assistant coach Larry Drew to talk to the media.
Bibby, who was 6-for-15 from the field, said he was going to appeal the automatic fine that goes with being assessed a technical foul. Meanwhile, center Al Horford said the Hawks needed to be quiet.
“We shouldn’t even be talking to the refs,” Horford said. “We have to go out there and play. The Cavs are the best team in the league, so we need to go out and play. Until guys understand that, we’re going to be going through this.”
Mo Williams led the Cavaliers (56-13) with 24 points. He was 8-for-14 from the field, including 3-for-4 on 3-pointers, and made all five of his foul shots.
James played 40 minutes, hitting 9-for-21 from the field to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas passed the 10,000-career point mark in the first period when he hit two foul shots. James, Brad Daugherty and Austin Carr are the only other players in franchise history to reach 10,000 points in their careers.
The 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas missed the entire 1996-97 and 1999-2000 seasons and played in only 24 games in 2000-01 because of injuries to his feet.
“Obviously, if I had not missed so many years because of injuries, I would have had more points,” said Ilgauskas. “I consider myself lucky to still be playing basketball so I’ll take this one and not ask for too much.”
Ilgauskas scored 16 points Saturday and was given a standing ovation by the crowd when it was announced he had reached the milestone.
All of Atlanta’s wins during its streak came at home, but the Hawks found circumstances much more difficult at Quicken Loans Arena. The Hawks led briefly early in the game, but the Cavaliers went on a 12-0 run late in the first quarter to build a 23-9 lead. The margin ballooned to 40-16 early in the second quarter.
“They jumped on us early,” said Bibby, who scored 14 points. “We weren’t hitting our shots and they were just running the ball down our throat. They were doing what they wanted with us. They had a lot of layups at the beginning. We got down early and that’s what killed us.”
After trailing 100-84 with 3:06 to play, Atlanta cut the margin to 102-96 with 39.4 seconds left against the Cavaliers’ reserves, but the Hawks missed two 3-point attempts as the clock ran out.
Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 24 points, while Flip Murray added
22. Maurice Evans scored 15.
The Hawks have lost three straight road games and are 14-22 away from home.
Notes: After just completing a seven-game homestand, the Hawks return home for four more home games. ... Atlanta plays only five times on the road in March. ... Cavs F Anderson Varejao was questionable after banging his right leg into Portland’s Greg Oden on Thursday, but had six points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes. ... Cleveland is 3-1 against Atlanta this season. The Hawks snapped the Cavaliers’ 11-game winning streak with a 97-92 victory at Atlanta on Dec. 13. ... Cleveland plays at New Jersey on Sunday night.
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