Hawks at Cavaliers Live Notebook

Ben Ladner

The Hawks will look to enter the All-Star break with positive momentum as they take on the Cavaliers Wednesday night. Both teams have struggled this season -- they have combined for just 28 wins -- but Cleveland in particular has fallen upon hard times, winning one of their last 14 games. While they weren't as active as Atlanta at the trade deadline, the Cavaliers added Andre Drummond from Detroit last week in attempt to add another piece around the backcourt of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. 

The Hawks, meanwhile, are 2-4 this month despite a wave of injuries to their roster. Tonight, Atlanta will have most of its rotation available as DeAndre' Bembry returns from a right hand injury that cost him the last 11 games. Cam Reddish came back from a concussion on Monday night in Orlando, and De'Andre Hunter's lingering ankle injury won't keep him out of tonight's action. Clint Capela and Skal Labissière didn't travel with the team on its current road trip due to heel and knee injuries, respectively. 

Dewayne Dedmon, who the Hawks also acquired at the trade deadline, will make his first start back in a Hawks uniform, along with Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, and John Collins. Cleveland will counter with Garland, Sexton, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr., and Drummond. 

Follow along below for live updates and insights from tonight's action. 

First Quarter

Dedmon picks up two early fouls

Dedmon picked up his second foul with 9:45 remaining in the first quarter, which puts Lloyd Pierce in a difficult spot managing his rotation. Pierce tends to be conservative managing foul trouble, so we'll likely see heavier doses of Damian Jones (who checked in for Dedmon), Bruno Fernando, and John Collins at center. That could also press Vince Carter into heavier duty than expected as a backup power forward, but the Hawks lose an important rim protector and floor spacer earlier than anticipated against a team that prioritizes getting to the rim and attacking the glass. 

Cleveland dominating at the rim

The Cavs have jumped out to an early 33-19 lead after a quarter, thanks in large part to a massive advantage inside. Cleveland shot 9-of-15 at the rim in the period while the Hawks only attempted eight shots at the rim. The Hawks have been unable to contain the ball at the point of attack or keep Cleveland's big men off the offensive glass, which has resulted in constant looks at point-blank range. The Cavs only attempted five 3-pointers and had eight offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone. 

The Hawks have been downright poor on the other end of the floor, scoring just 0.76 points per possession and shooting 30.8 percent from the field. If it hopes to climb back into the game, Atlanta must toughen up on the interior and emphasize taking away what Cleveland does well. 

Second Quarter

Dedmon re-enters to start second quarter

Pierce brings Dedmon back in earlier than he typically does with players in foul trouble, but given how poorly Atlanta protected the rim with him off the floor, it may be worth the risk of him picking up a third foul if it allows the Hawks to slow Cleveland’s attack inside. 

Thompson keeps Cleveland scoring run going

Tristan Thompson terrorized the Hawks' defense before Lloyd Pierce called timeout, canning a pair of 3s and slashing inside for a layup to extend Cleveland's 16. It's one thing to give an unproven shooter space to step into a lightly contested 3-pointer, but for John Collins to allow him to take him to the rim off the bounce should rightfully frustrate Lloyd Pierce. Atlanta's defensive effort has been insubstantial all half, and while the Hawks have begun to remove the lid from the basket on offense, they continue to give their opponent a direct line to the rim on the other end. 

Young distributing, but Hawks' offense continues to struggle

Trae Young was just 2-of-6 from the field midway through the second quarter, but has been effective creating shots for teammates -- particularly from beyond the arc. He has seven assists at halftime and has found Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter several times for open 3s. The Hawks are shooting over 40 percent from deep as a team despite an offensive rating under 100 for the half and Young's struggles as an individual scorer. 

But, as has been the case throughout the season, Atlanta needs Young to score for its offense to be viable, no matter how good he is creating shots for others. Hunter and Huerter haven't been able to effectively create space for shots, and though Collins scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, the Hawks have been so bad everywhere else that it hasn't mattered. 

Cleveland scored over 1.22 points per possession in the first half, grabbed 37.5 percent of available offensive rebounds, and shot 18-of-25 at the rim. Ineffective though its offense has been, Atlanta's hopes of getting back into the game will rest upon its ability to get stops and contain the ball better. 

Third Quarter

Cleveland continues its dominance inside

There really isn't much more to say at this point about Atlanta's struggles around the rim. Detroit has rebounded 40 percent of their own missed shots, taken over 50 percent of their shots at the rim, and held the Hawks to a pedestrian shooting percentage within four feet of the basket to open up a 20-point lead. 

While Atlanta began the third quarter being more assertive going downhill, the Cavs made the Hawks take difficult shots once they got to the rim and quickly closed the fissures in their defense. The Hawks are just 3-of-13 between four feet of the rim and the 3-point line, with 12 turnovers to boot, which has kept their offensive rating under 103 points per 100 possessions. 

Even if the Hawks rectify their issues, there likely isn't enough time to make up the ground the Cavs have gained. This will be a dispiriting way to head into the All-Star break, and the Hawks will hope that their trade-deadline reinforcements can provide some more punch than the team has shown tonight. 

Fourth Quarter

Reddish leaves court with apparent leg injury

Cam Reddish is back on the bench after leaving the court with an apparent left leg injury following a missed dunk attempt in traffic. Whether he returns to the game with the Cavs comfortably in the lead remains to be seen, but the rookie had played well in his 21 minutes, scoring 16 points with two assists and a pair of made 3-pointers. 

Reddish has now strung together eight consecutive solid performances (with a five-game absence squeezed into that stretch) and become perhaps the team's best rookie as De'Andre Hunter has slammed into the rookie wall. Reddish is shooting 40.6 percent from deep in 15 games since the calendar turned and supplanted Hunter as Atlanta's most reliable perimeter defender. 

Still, plays like the one that just sent him to the sideline represent the progress Reddish can still make on offense. He has struggled to finish at the rim all season, especially on dunks, and doesn't yet have the strength or athleticism to explode and finish over longer defenders. His decision-making on those sorts of plays has improved, but now the physical tools lag behind a bit. 

Nance boosting Cavs on both ends

Larry Nance Jr. has played a nice game for the Cavs tonight. He has an efficient 18 points and 11 rebounds, but his passing and defense has been just as important to Cleveland's success. He's been effective as a rim protector, and just made a canny pass to Cedi Osman in the corner as he dove to the basket out of the pick-and-roll. Nance has long been a smart and athletic player, but his defensive impact has been inconsistent, and some of his offensive limitations outweigh his connective abilities on that end. 

Tonight, his craft and subtleties have been unambiguously helpful for a team that doesn't have much of what he brings to the table. 

Final: Cavs 127, Hawks 105

Cleveland finished the night with a 122.3 offensive rating, while Atlanta mustered just 101.9 points per 100 possessions. The Hawks struggled on the interior all night on both ends of the court, allowing 70 percent shooting at the rim and a 37.5 percent offensive rebound percentage to the Cavs. 

Tristan Thompson led the team with 27 points and 11 rebounds off the bench while Larry Nance Jr. and Collin Sexton scored 23 points each. Kevin Porter Jr, who torched Atlanta back in December, had 18 on just 11 shot attempts. 

Trae Young had a fairly quiet 27 points and 12 assists while John Collins added 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Reddish finished with 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench. 

The Hawks enter the All-Star break 15-41, with 26 games to play. They won't play again until February 20, when they host the Miami Heat, and will hope to have a healthier and more coherent roster as new additions recover from injuries and gradually jell with one another. 

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