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Cavs Notes

Making a passing impression: LeBron James ties his career high with 17 assists as Cavaliers cruise past Hawks

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    Cavaliers forward LeBron James passes the ball around the Hawks' Taurean Prince in the first half Tuesday at The Q. James tied his career high with 17 assists in a 123-114 win.

    TONY DEJAK / AP

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James could see it coming.

The four-time league MVP tied a career high in assists and his team set a franchise record and season high in the 3-point department as the Cavaliers rolled to a 123-114 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

James finished with 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds and a career-high-tying 17 assists as the Cavs (20-8) cruised to their ninth straight home win and 15th win in their last 16 games overall.

“I can see plays happening before they actually happen,” said James, whose assists led to 43 points. “It’s a gift.”

Cleveland broke a franchise record by making at least 10 3-pointers for the 17th straight game, finishing the night 20-for-38 on an evening where it led the NBA-worst 6-21 Hawks by as many as 24 points.

The Cavs’ 20 3-pointers were a season high, surpassing the 18 they had in a 117-115 loss to the Hawks at The Q on Nov. 5. They also set a league playoff record with 25 3-pointers made against Atlanta last season.

“That’s been our identity,” said Cleveland center Kevin Love, who had 17 points, all in the first half, and made 4 of 5 3-pointers while finishing with 12 rebounds.

Of James’ 17 assists, nine led to threes, meaning he had a direct hand in 68 points with his scoring total factored in. All this on a night when he took just 13 shoots, including a nifty 10-foot left-hand jumper that hit nothing but net.

“That’s just who I am,” James said. “I’m an efficient player. I’ve never been a volume shooter. That’s not my game. You’ve got to put in the work, and I’ve put in the work.”

Almost everyone got in on the fun, as Kyle Korver finished with 19 points and made 6-of-9 from behind the arc, while Jeff Green had 17, Jose Calderon tied a season high with 14, Jae Crowder had 13 and J.R. Smith added five rebounds and tied a season high with eight assists.

“That feels like us,” Love said of his team’s 3-point shooting.

The Hawks alternated between trying to double team James and attempting to “tilt” the Cavs toward one side of the court, but the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder either split defenders or got the ball to shooters on the weak side for open threes.

“When you double team LeBron, he’s going to pick you apart,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said.

Said Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer: “It’s a tried-and-true formula: You have a great player and you surround him with 3-point shooters. LeBron is obviously a great player and a great facilitator.”

In his first action after missing 19 games with a strained left calf, Tristan Thompson played six minutes — none in the second half by design — and finished with zeros in every other statistical category.

“I felt good,” said Thompson, who last played Nov. 1. “I was happy to be out there. Being out for an extended period of time sucks, so I’m just happy to be out there with the guys playing basketball again.”

The Hawks got 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists from Taurean Prince, 20 points, eight boards and five assists from Kent Bazemore and 14 points from Dennis Schroder, but they never had a chance after falling behind by 14 at halftime.

In helping Cleveland build that 62-48 lead, James had nine assists and Smith had six as the Cavs had 18 on 22 first-half buckets.

“You’ve got to kind of pick your poison,” Lue said of defending James. “When he’s shooting the ball as well as he is, he’s tough to defend.”

The teams were tied at 31 after a you-shoot, I’ll-shoot first quarter that saw the red-hot Cavs make 9 of 13 3-pointers and the Hawks go 6-for-11 from behind the arc, but Cleveland took charge midway through the second period and never looked back.

“We’re in a good rhythm right now,” James said. “We know what we want to run. ... When the ball is moving, energy is behind it.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

Cavs 123, Hawks 114

ATLANTA (114): Prince 8-10 6-6 24, Ilyasova 3-11 0-0 7, Cavanaugh 4-9 2-2 11, Schroder 6-15 0-0 14, Bazemore 7-13 0-0 20, Bembry 4-8 1-1 10, Babbitt 3-7 0-0 7, Plumlee 3-4 0-0 6, Taylor 1-3 3-4 5, Delaney 1-2 0-0 2, Belinelli 3-10 0-0 8, Dorsey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 43-92 12-13 114.

CLEVELAND (123): James 11-13 1-2 25, Crowder 5-10 1-1 13, Love 6-13 1-3 17, Calderon 5-7 0-0 14, Smith 1-5 0-0 3, Green 7-12 3-3 17, Osman 3-8 0-0 7, Frye 3-4 0-0 6, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Zizic 1-2 0-0 2, Perrantes 0-1 0-0 0, Korver 6-11 1-1 19. Totals 48-86 7-10 123.

Atlanta      31 17 29 37 — 114
Cleveland 31 31 32 29 — 123

3-Point Goals—Atlanta 16-36 (Bazemore 6-10, Prince 2-4, Belinelli 2-5, Schroder 2-5, Bembry 1-1, Babbitt 1-3, Cavanaugh 1-3, Ilyasova 1-4, Taylor 0-1), Cleveland 20-38 (Korver 6-9, Calderon 4-5, Love 4-5, James 2-3, Crowder 2-6, Smith 1-2, Osman 1-5, Green 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Atlanta 37 (Cavanaugh 9), Cleveland 37 (Love 12). Assists—Atlanta 26 (Prince 6), Cleveland 35 (James 17). Total Fouls—Atlanta 17, Cleveland 18. Technicals—Atlanta coach Hawks (Defensive three second). A—20,562 (20,562).

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