A victory over the Atlanta Hawks three weeks ago helped the Cleveland Cavaliers bounce back from a disappointing defeat.The Cavaliers haven't lost since, and even more impressive than their streak has been the fashion in which they've won.
Cleveland looks to continue its dominance, and set a franchise record with its 12th straight victory on Saturday night when it visits the Hawks, who are opening a season-high eight-game homestand.
After squandering a fourth-quarter lead in a 96-89 loss at Detroit on Nov. 19, Cleveland (20-3) has simply overpowered its last 11 opponents. The Cavaliers have won by an average of 19.8 points, and haven't trailed in the second half in any game during the streak.
"We're rolling," LeBron James said after Friday's 88-72 victory over Philadelphia. "We're playing great basketball."
Cleveland has won 19 of 20 after opening the season 1-2, and has tied the franchise's longest winning streak, most recently in 1994-95.
"We should be proud of this," said James, who had 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists on Friday. "But there's a lot of work still to do. It's a long season. We have to continue get better and continue to work."
The Cavs' streak began with a 110-96 home win over Atlanta (13-9) on Nov. 22, as James had 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. The four-time All-Star is averaging 30.9 points and 8.0 boards in his last 10 games against the Hawks.
But for the first time this season, Cleveland was forced to deal with some adversity on Friday. Starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas sat out with a sprained left ankle, and reserve guard Daniel Gibson missed the game with a sprained toe.
Ilgauskas, who is averaging 14.8 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds, suffered his injury in Wednesday's 101-93 victory at Philadelphia, and is expected to miss several games.
Anderson Varejao stepped up in Ilgauskas' place against the 76ers, and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds in his first start this season. Varejao had eight points and six rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench in the Cavs' win over Atlanta earlier this season.
Cleveland, which opens a four-game road trip on Saturday, has won 15 of its last 18 against the Hawks, and seven of the last nine in Atlanta.
The Hawks are hoping to take advantage of a favorable schedule, as they won't play on the road again until visiting Indiana on Dec. 30. Atlanta has won five straight home games since a 119-107 loss to New Jersey on Nov. 15, and is 7-1 at Philips Arena this season.
The Hawks wrapped up a four-game road trip with an 87-73 win at Miami on Friday to snap a three-game skid. Atlanta had a sound defensive effort, as it held the Heat to 38.6 percent shooting including 5-for-22 (22.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
"That's the best I've seen them play defensively," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said after his team allowed its fewest points in a game this season. "It was a total team effort across the board."
Joe Johnson scored 21 points against Miami, and is averaging 26.0 points in his last four games - up from 16.3 in his previous six. He now looks to avenge one of his worst performances of the season, as he scored a season-low four points on 1-of-8 shooting in last month's loss to the Cavs.