Love, James lead Cavaliers past Hawks, 109-97
CLEVELAND (AP) The rematch of the Eastern Conference finals looked very familiar.
It was all Cleveland.
Kevin Love scored a season-high 25 points, LeBron James added 19 and the Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-97 on Saturday night.
The teams met for the first time since the Cavaliers swept the Hawks in the playoffs, and it didn't take long for Cleveland to continue its dominance.
Love and James are Cleveland's only healthy starters but the Cavaliers are 10-3 with depth they didn't have last season.
''Up to this point it's really paid off for us,'' coach David Blatt said. ''We're missing a lot of guys right now, a lot of very, very significant players but the other guys are stepping up and doing the job.''
James has maintained all season the injuries are no reason for the team not to play well.
''Next man up. No matter who's in the lineup, we need to play Cavs basketball the right way,'' he said. ''We need to share the ball, we need to move it, play together and be aggressive defensively.''
Guard Mo Williams (sore right ankle) has missed the last two games and center Timofey Mozgov (strained right shoulder) could miss two weeks. Kyrie Irving (fractured left kneecap) and Iman Shumpert (right wrist surgery) have yet to play this season.
The Cavaliers took control after trailing 17-16 midway through the first quarter. Cleveland quickly built a 10-point lead, stretched the margin to 57-40 late in the first half and the Hawks never recovered.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was ejected in the second quarter after making contact with an official. Budenholzer was given a technical for arguing a call, bumped referee Ben Taylor after stepping on the floor and was quickly tossed.
''He threw me out and that's his prerogative,'' Budenholzer said. ''If there was contact, it was 100 percent unintentional.''
Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap each scored 14 points for Atlanta, which has lost four of five.
Love and James both had 11 rebounds. J.R. Smith scored 15 points while Tristan Thompson tied a season high with 16 rebounds.
James scored only five points in the first half and walked to the bench in frustration after Cleveland threw the ball out of bounds midway through the third quarter. The Cavaliers were assessed a technical when Richard Jefferson couldn't get to the scorers' table in time before the ball was inbounded.
''I blew a gasket,'' James said. ''I apologized to my teammates for it.''
Blatt found some humor in the situation.
''He thought we were playing hockey. Hockey sub,'' Blatt said. ''You know, `Bron is a lot of things, a lot of great things, but probably where you're not going to see him is out there playing for the (New York) Rangers. I understand his frustration but obviously he shouldn't do that.''
Kent Bazemore (sprained right ankle) didn't play for Atlanta. Jeff Teague, the Hawks' usual starter at point guard, returned after missing two games with a sprained left ankle and scored 13 points.
Blatt said Irving, who was injured in last season's NBA Finals, is running plays in 5-on-0 drills and doing light 1-on-1 contact drills.
Blatt can't put a timetable on when Irving will return but said, ''He's certainly taken some steps forward. We've seen progress in the last few days. It's encouraging.''
Budenholzer had no excuses for his team's performance.
''Give Cleveland credit, they played very well,'' he said. ''They were just better than us tonight. We have a lot to work on. That's the task in front of us.''
Hawks: Bazemore, who has missed three straight games, worked out on the court before the game but there's no timetable for his return. .... Small forward Thabo Sefolosha made his first start of the season after coming off the bench for 11 games. He scored 13 points. ... Tiago Splitter left in the first half with a sore right hip.
Cavaliers: Thompson, usually one of the first players off the bench, started at center with Mozgov out. He scored nine points with a career-high five assists ... Williams has missed two games and is doubtful against Orlando on Monday.
Hawks: Host Boston on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: Host Orlando on Monday.
This story has been corrected to show that Ben Taylor was the referee bumped.