CLEVELAND — This one was doubly painful to the Cavaliers.
It took two overtimes, but the Atlanta Hawks came into Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday and stole a 127-125 victory over the slumping Cavs.
Cleveland (10-18), which has now dropped three straight and five of its last six, led by five points on two occasions in the second OT, by four once and by three on another occasion, but could not hold off the Hawks (16-13), who lost center Al Horford (25 points, eight rebounds, four assists) to a right shoulder injury with 1:35 left in the first OT.
“Somehow, someway, we’ve got to figure out we can’t outscore everybody,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “We’ve got to bear down and get stops.”
The final dagger was delivered by Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague (34 points, 14 assists, six turnovers) at the buzzer of the second OT.
With the game tied and 21.7 seconds left, the Hawks inbounded to their point guard, who dribbled patiently against Kyrie Irving (40 points, nine assists, four steals, six turnovers) well above the 3-point arc.
With seconds remaining, Teague got a high pick from Paul Milsap (20 points, 11 rebounds), forcing Tristan Thompson (22 points, six rebounds) to defend the 6-foot-2, 181-pounder.
Teague jab-stepped the 6-9 Thompson, then stepped back and hit a 20-foot jumper that bounced three times on the rim before trickling through the net after the buzzer had sounded.
“It was supposed to be a pick-and-roll, but they switched, so I just went for it,” said Teague, who fell to the floor after he released the shot.
“I couldn’t even see it (bounce on the rim), but (teammate) Kyle (Korver) picked me up and told me what happened. I’m really happy it went in.”
“He made a tough play,” Irving said. “It’s definitely a heartbreaker.”
Teague’s shot capped a magnificent game that each team had several chances to win, but also did a lot to lose.
The Cavs were up four with 2:25 left in regulation, but didn’t score again, committing three turnovers and missing two shots on their final five possessions.
Atlanta had a chance to win it, but Teague missed a floater over 6-11 Anderson Varejao (eight points, season-high-tying 17 rebounds) with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
Australian hustle man Matthew Dellavedova, who made two free throws with 11.7 seconds to go and two more with 6.6 seconds remaining, should have been the hero of the first OT, but the Cavs made a defensive gaffe to prevent that.
Teague came ridiculously open against Irving after getting a high screen and hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 108 with 4.2 ticks left in that session.
“We had a few breakdowns on defense that cost us,” Irving said.
The Cavs almost paid dearly for one on offense, too.
After Teague’s shot and a Cleveland timeout, Irving lost the ball out of bounds with 1.9 seconds left. Teague had another chance to win the game at that point, but missed a baseline runner at the buzzer after receiving a long, hurried inbounds pass from Pero Antic.
Irving scored five points in the first 28 seconds of an unbelievable second overtime, but the Hawks were equally incredible.
Korver (20 points, six rebounds, five assists) hit a four-point play at one point when he was fouled by Varejao, and Atlanta took its first lead of that session when Teague drove, scored, was fouled by Dion Waiters (20 points, five turnovers) and made the free throw to make it 125-123 with 1:06 remaining.
Irving, who was 17-for-33 from the field, quickly tied it with a pull-up jumper with 55.8 ticks on the clock, with neither team scoring again until Teague’s game-winner.
That play began with a jump ball between Varejao and Milsap at Atlanta’s end of the court with 23.4 seconds left. Varejao outjumped Milsap, but hit the ball out of bounds in front of the Cavs bench.
“We had some good moments during the game, but it’s disappointing because we had plenty of opportunities to close the game,” Brown said.
Over the course of the three-hour, five-minute game, the Cavs shot .521 from the field and made eight –of 21 3-pointers, while the Hawks connected at a .495 clip and were 11-for-34 from long range. Seven players — four for Atlanta and three for Cleveland — scored at least 20 points.
For the Cavs, Thompson played 47 minutes, Irving played 45 and Waiters, who had missed the previous three games due to right wrist tendinitis, played 42.
Center Andrew Bynum, who could not match up at all with Horford, played just 18 minutes and scored only four points, while Alonzo Gee, who had been starting at small forward, did not play at all after being replaced by Earl Clark (three points in 18 minutes).
“We made too many mistakes as a group down the stretch,” Brown said. “Not just offensively, but defensively, too.”
Brown also left himself open to some second-guessing in the second OT, as he had Jarrett Jack unsuccessfully try to defend Korver after Dellavedova had done a great job.
Not to be overlooked, the Cavs tied a season high with 24 turnovers, with Irving and Waiters combining for 11.
“I had some costly turnovers,” Irving said. “We turned the ball over too much.”
Irving, who was scoreless for the only time in his pro career when Cleveland lost in Atlanta on Dec. 6, had just one point and was 0-for-5 from the field before connecting on four straight field goals from the 4:22 mark of the second period to the 3:16 mark.
The 6-3, 191-pounder had 31 points after intermission, when he was 13-for-23 from the field, but the Cavs had nothing to show for it but another loss.
“It’s tough, man,” Waiters said. “We could have put them away a few times.”