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Cleveland --- Mike Woodson could have tried to push different buttons.

He could have mixed and matched lineups, which he did, and he could have experimented with a new defense or even dialed up a few plays on the fly, and none of it would have helped Saturday night.

Not with LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers, unbeaten at Quicken Loans Arena this season, revved up and ready to make someone pay after their eight-game win streak came to an end in Detroit on Wednesday night.

The Hawks' 110-96 loss was as much about their tired legs --- they were playing less than 24 hours after grinding out an 88-83 home win over Charlotte --- as it was about the drive of the James gang.

Cleveland had the Hawks down 11 points early in the game, increased the lead to 23 before halftime, stretched it to as many as 28 in the second half and cruised to its seventh consecutive home win.

The Hawks fell to 8-5 on the season and evened their road record at 4-4.

"First quarter, we came out of the box very lethargic, and you could tell we played last night," Woodson said. "But I'm not going to use it as an excuse. Everybody plays back-to-backs. We've got a number of them as we continue our season. We've got to get ready to play on back-to-backs."

The Hawks labored just trying to stay in the game after the first few minutes, the fatigue showing most on captain and All-Star Joe Johnson (season-low four points on 1-for-8 shooting), who played on a sore toe on his right foot that required extra attention in the training room before the game.

The truth is the Hawks have played at least a man, or two, down since the fourth game of the season, when Josh Smith landed awkwardly on Zaza Pachulia's foot and suffered a high ankle sprain that has kept him out of the lineup since Nov. 7.

A ruthless schedule that includes 10 of the first 16 games on the road and five back-to-back sets in the first month hasn't helped. Woodson argued before and after Saturday's game that his team can't lean on any of that as an excuse.

But their body language against the Cavaliers argued otherwise, especially after four games in five nights. And it was that way for most of the night.

The Hawks didn't appear to have the turbo-boosters needed to mount a serious rally.

"We came off the back-to-back, and we just didn't bring that energy," Mo Evans said. "Our start hurt us because you can't give good teams any momentum, otherwise you're just digging your own hole, and we did that."

It wasn't until late in the third quarter and early in the fourth that things got interesting. Evans and Hawks backup point guard Acie Law IV, owner of the freshest pair of legs in blue shorts on this night, helped wake the entire team.

Law put on a show, piling up a season-high 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds, while Evans added 21 points, including a 4-for-5 shooting performance from beyond the 3-point line. They outscored the Hawks' starters 41-38.

"We just tried to bring some energy," Law said. "And with what we ask of our starters every night, the way we play, especially on a back-to-back, they're going to be asked to do a lot. It was all we could do to try and crank the energy up. When you start in a nine-point or 11-point hole, or whatever it was, you look up and realize we just don't have it tonight.

"So we were just trying to do our job as a bench and bring some energy and fill in where we could for the starters."


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 23, 2008

 

 
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