Basketball: Hawks fly high again as they beat Cavaliers for third time this season

ATLANTA (AFP) - The Atlanta Hawks underscored their status as the top team in the NBA Eastern Conference on Friday with a 106-97 triumph over the star-studded Cleveland Cavaliers.

Al Horford led six Atlanta players in double figures with 19 points as the Hawks beat the Cavaliers for the third time in four meetings this season.

It was the final regular-season clash between the two teams considered by many to be the best in the East.

With the win, the Hawks are the only team in the league to beat Cleveland three times in this campaign.

But even though it could have been a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, Atlanta's Kyle Korver insisted the Hawks were not trying to send a message.

Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague scored 16 points apiece.

Atlanta forced 18 turnovers, including nine from LeBron James, who shot just 5-of-13 from the floor in scoring 18 points.

Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 20 points while Kevin Love added 14.

The play-off-bound Hawks led by 17 in the first quarter. The Cavaliers trailed by as many as 12 early in the third, before taking their first lead in the period.

The Hawks, however, dominated the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to pull away.