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Hawks close in on fourth, hand Cavaliers ninth-straight loss

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Associated Press
4/1/2013 10:48:37 PM
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ATLANTA -- Devin Harris and the Atlanta Hawks picked up right where they left off.

Harris scored a season-high 25 points and Josh Smith nearly added a triple-double Monday night as the Hawks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 to improve their chances of securing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Harris, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday's win over the visiting Magic, had Atlanta's first seven points and scored 11 in the first quarter as the Hawks built a 25-19 lead.

"I thought Devin Harris did a phenomenal job from start to finish," said Hawks coach Larry Drew, whose team alternated wins and losses for nine games prior to Monday. "His speed and quickness were there."

Smith had 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists before a sparse crowd in Philips Arena to help the Hawks (42-33) pull within one game of Brooklyn (42-31) for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Reserve Marreese Speights scored 14 of his 22 in the final quarter, but the Cavs (22-51) did not seriously threaten after pulling within 58-56 early in the third period.

Shaun Livingston, starting with Kyrie Irving not playing in the second night of a back-to-back, had 14 points and six assists in Cleveland's ninth straight loss.

"Overall, I thought we played extremely hard, competed," said Cleveland coach Byron Scott, who has recently fielded questions about his team's heart. "If we battled like that the rest of the season, play that hard, with that type of fire . . . then we'll be OK. I've been waiting for that all season."

The Cavs' last lead of the night came when guard Wayne Ellington hit a jumper for a 5-4 edge.

Atlanta wasn't particularly sharp, but managed to win consecutive games -- albeit against two of the league's least imposing opponents -- for the first time in three weeks.

"My message was very simple to our guys . . . we really head to focus on us tonight, making sure we do the things we've been doing pretty much all year," Drew said. "As the season winds down, it's important that we don't lose focus."

Cleveland shot 51 per cent in the first half and outrebounded the Hawks 23-18, but the Hawks made six 3-pointers to the Cavs' one. Atlanta's Kyle Korver was good on three 3-pointers to tie Reggie Miller for the fourth-longest streak (68 games) in NBA history making at least one.

Korver was 3 for 6 behind the arc as the Hawks built a 52-44 halftime lead.

Alonzo Gee's 3-pointer drew the Cavs within 58-56 with 8:16 left in the third quarter.

"(The Cavs) were playing real carefree," Smith said.

But Cleveland would never be that close again even as Speights scored 12 straight points for the visitors in the fourth quarter.

Notes: Al Horford returned to start at centre for Atlanta after missing two games with a stomach illness. He had 16 points and six rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter. . . . The only players with longer 3-ball streaks than Korver and Miller were Dana Barros (89), Michael Adams (79) and Dennis Scott (78). . . . Cavs guard Daniel Gibson was ejected with 7:07 left in the second quarter after drawing a pair of technical fouls. The first came for griping too passionately at official Brent Barnaky when he didn't get a foul call against Atlanta as he missed a shot. Then, Gibson and Atlanta's DeShawn Stevenson drew technicals in an ensuing debate about the situation. . . . . Cleveland's C.J. Miles missed the game with a sore right ankle. . . . Tristan Thompson returned to action for the Cavs despite suffering a laceration above his left eye that require three stitches.

Devin Harris DeShawn Stevenson (Photo: Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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