Cavs blow 26-pt lead as fragility comes to the fore

ATLANTA • The Atlanta Hawks topped their stunning short-handed 114-100 victory in Cleveland on Friday with a 26-point fourth-quarter comeback on Sunday to shock the Cavaliers 126-125 in overtime.

Asked which win was more satisfying, Atlanta guard Tim Hardaway Jr said: "This latest one. But any time you beat the defending National Basketball Association (NBA) champions, it's huge, no matter the circumstances."

It was just the third time in NBA history that a team overcame a deficit of 26 or more points in the fourth quarter and won.

Milwaukee rallied from a 28-point deficit in 1977 and the Los Angeles Lakers won despite a 27-point disadvantage in 2002.

The Hawks, who never led until overtime, took the lead for good on a three-pointer by Mike Muscala with 35 seconds left to shock the Cavaliers.

Cleveland led 93-67 after the third quarter, but the Hawks outscored the Cavaliers 44-18 in the fourth and tied it at 111 on Paul Millsap's buzzer-beater.

"A fourth quarter like that is hard to explain," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said: "Everything went wrong for us in that fourth quarter."

The Cavaliers lost despite getting 45 points from Kyrie Irving, who made eight of 12 three-point attempts, and 32 points from LeBron James. However, James, who also had 16 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double, fouled out with just under two minutes left in overtime.

"It wasn't a foul," said James, who also voiced his displeasure after the game with a couple of other calls and not getting a timeout granted.

The Cavaliers (51-29) dropped into a tie with the Boston Celtics (51-29) for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, although Cleveland own the tie-breaker. Both teams have two games remaining.

"For me, it's never been about the No. 1 seed," James said.

James and the Cavaliers, though, want to be playing good basketball at the end of the regular season, and that is not the case right now.

Lue said of the late collapse: "That should never happen, especially when we are such a great offensive team, to be outscored by 26 points in a quarter."

The Hawks' bench produced a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter, while the Cavaliers hurt themselves with seven turnovers.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2017, with the headline 'Cavs blow 26-pt lead as fragility comes to the fore'. Print Edition | Subscribe