Posted November 29, 2012 on AP on Fox
After an inconsistent start to the season, the Atlanta Hawks have found their groove and enter the weekend as one of the NBA's hottest teams. That doesn't bode well for the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers, who already have had their hands full in this series of late. The Hawks try for a seventh consecutive victory overall and an eighth straight over the visiting Cavaliers on Friday night. Atlanta (9-4) recorded its worst start in five years by opening 3-4 but has since picked up the pace, putting together six wins in a row behind a continued focus on defense. They're forcing a league-best 17.9 turnovers per game and are limiting opponents to averages of 92.0 points and 42.5 percent shooting - both rank near the top. They clamped down again Wednesday in a 94-91 win over Charlotte. "These games, in the past, one of them we would've dropped if we didn't come out with enough energy and little things like that," said Al Horford, averaging 17.2 points and 10.0 rebounds during the win streak. "I think this year we're doing a good job even though it's closer than we would like. But we're getting the wins." Horford, Josh Smith and Lou Williams all scored 17 points Wednesday, with Horford and Smith combining for 24 rebounds, 12 assists and eight blocks. The Hawks held the Bobcats to 39.5 percent from the field. "My selling pitch is always gonna be defense," coach Larry Drew said. "I don't expect us to shoot the ball well every single night, but our defense has to be our staple - it has to be what we hang our hat on... defense has to be our No. 1 priority." The Hawks, who last won seven straight Nov. 7-20, 2009, have to like their chances of keeping things going with the Cavaliers (3-12) coming to town. Atlanta is looking to match its longest win streak in the 42-year history of the series, having previously won eight in a row over Cleveland from April 13, 1982-Dec. 3, 1983. The Cavs haven't won in this series since LeBron James left the team, and none of those six games were decided by fewer than 12 points except for the last one. The Hawks prevailed 103-102 in overtime March 21 behind Smith's 32 points and 17 rebounds. Cleveland has dropped 10 of 11 after Tuesday's 91-78 loss to Phoenix. Anderson Varejao had 20 points and 18 rebounds, but the Cavs shot 35.7 percent and were outscored 42-28 in the paint. "I'll make just a real quick statement - Andy Varejao was fantastic," coach Byron Scott said. "Everybody else stunk tonight. Anything else you need to know? "We gotta get into our stuff quicker, faster, better screens, better set-ups... we just gotta get better at a lot of little things on both ends of the floor." While very little has gone the Cavaliers' way of late, Varejao has been a bright spot. The Brazil native is averaging a career-high 14.5 points and leads the league with 14.9 boards per game. "The way Anderson is rebounding the ball right now, the only comparison you can make is to Dennis Rodman," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. Cleveland continues to play without leading scorer Kyrie Irving (fractured finger) and could be missing fellow guard Daniel Gibson (elbow contusion) for a second straight game. Rookie Dion Waiters (finger contusion) should be available. He's averaging 15.0 points to rank second among first-year players but has shot 30.2 percent from the field over his last eight games. The Cavaliers have dropped eight straight on the road, where they're allowing 102.7 points per game - compared to 95.2 at home.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

NBA News: Cavs waive Harangody, sign Kevin Jones

The Cleveland Cavaliers have waived forward Luke Harangody and signed forward Kevin Jones to a contract. The Cavs have assigned Jones to the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers exclusively owned and operated NBA Development League team, as one of their NBA roster players. Per league and team policy, terms of the contract were not announced though Jones was initially signed to a three-year...

Horford, Hawks pull past Bobcats

ATLANTA -- After an atrocious 1-for-10 night at the free throw line last week, Al Horford decided to spend extra time working on his foul shots. "That's one of the things I always work on, and I got away from it a little bit," he said. "I think it showed when I went in that little slump." His recent effort seems to have paid off. Horford scored 17 points...

Barkley: Varejao has been the best non-alien forward in Eastern Conference

If Anderson Varejao, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol aren’t on the All-Star team, it’s a farce. Anderson Varejao has been the best forward in the Eastern Conference this year. I mean of there mere mortals — I don’t count LeBron, he’s one of those aliens. But out of the normal human beings, Anderson Varejao has been the best forward in the Eastern Conference this year. ...

Josh Smith throws down one-handed alley-oop from Jeff Teague (Video)

It's been awhile since we posted a high-flying dunk from Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith but this effort against the Charlotte Bobcats is a worthy effort. Watch as Hawks guard Jeff Teague on the fast break finds J-Smooth for the one-handed jam in the third quarter of play:

Cavs waive Harangody, sign Jones from D-League

Forward Luke Harangody was waived Thursday by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who also signed forward Kevin Jones. Jones was assigned to the Canton Charge of the D-League. Terms of his contract were not announced. Harangody played 42 games with Cleveland during the past two seasons, averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. He has not played this season. Jones, a 6-8 rookie from West...

Byron Scott Thinks All The Cavs Except One Player Sucked Last Night

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a paltry 3-12 and Tuesday night’s loss to the Suns didn’t make matters any better. The only bright spot has been the Cavs center, who is having a fairly incredible season which is not going unnoticed by his coach. Byron opened his Tuesday presser with a simple and very true statement: “Andy Varejao was fantastic. Everybody else sucked tonight...

Wild times for the Wild Thing

One month into the season, Anderson Varejao is All-Star worthy. "He's the best center in the NBA right now; by far the best in the Eastern Conference," said Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. Even if you don't entirely agree with Varejao's coach, it's hard to argue with the numbers. The 6-foot-11 wild man is averaging a career-high 14.5 points. He leads the...

Box Score: Cavaliers 113, Hawks 111

Josh Smith has had some rough performances against the Cavaliers in his career, and tonight, he forgot to account for Alonzo Gee. Dion Waiters’s three-point attempt went awry, but Gee was there for the putback with 0.4 seconds remaining as the Cavaliers came back from 11 down at the half to snap a 4-game skid and win 113-111 at Philips Arena. Jeremy Pargo led the wine and gold...

Gee's last-second tip-in gives Cavs win

ATLANTA -- Dion Waiters insists his last shot hit the rim but everyone else in Philips Arena, including his teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers bench, saw an air ball. Alonzo Gee, standing under the basket, thought the shot was good; Waiters was in rhythm. Suddenly, the ball was in Gee's hands. "Oh!" he gasped, and tipped it in as time expired to beat the Atlanta...

Dion Waiters dribbles between Luis Scola's legs for basket (Video)

Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard Dion Waiters dribbled through the legs of Phoenix Suns guard Luis Scola on his way to scoring a basket during Tuesday night's NBA game at the Quicken Loans Arena. The move by Waiters gave the Cavs a 59-57 lead with 3:28 left in the third quarter. Waiters finished the game with 16 points and led the Cavs with 7 assists. Unfortunately...

Rookie Rankings: Lillard’s big fear, Waiters keeps chucking

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance...

While We’re Waiting… Somewhere Anderson Varejao just grabbed another rebound

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com. “At his current pace (and if he stays healthy), Varejao would finish the season with about 1,222 rebounds. That would destroy the Cavaliers’ single season record, which...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.