ATLANTA — LeBron James scored 26 points, Ira Newble added a season-best 18 and the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers held on for a 100-95 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
With Cleveland missing four of its top seven scorers to injuries, James came up huge at the end to help the Cavaliers bounce back after Atlanta rallied for the lead in the final quarter.
First, he slipped inside of Marvin Williams to grab an offensive rebound, then put it back in to give Cleveland a 96-91 lead with 1:19 remaining. Then, James grabbed a rebound off Joe Johnson’s miss, firing a pass ahead to Newble for a breakaway dunk that clinched it with 18 seconds to go.
James also has 11 rebounds and seven assists.
Johnson led the Hawks with 23 points, while Williams added 21, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Cavaliers from snapping Atlanta’s three-game winning streak.
Playing the second of back-to-back road games, the Cavaliers had a lot working against them.
Daniel Gibson was on the inactive list after straining his right hamstring the previous night against the Rockets, while Drew Gooden was still bothered by a strained right groin sustained earlier in the week. He tested his leg before the game but wasn’t in uniform.
The Cavaliers already were without Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, both sidelined by longer-term injuries.
The Hawks, who trailed by as many as 14, appeared to have Cleveland on the ropes with an 11-0 run in the final quarter. Josh Smith went in for a thunderous jam, was fouled and finished off a three-point play that gave Atlanta an 85-84 lead with 7:18 left.
But Damon Jones put the Cavaliers ahead to stay on a drive with 3:29 remaining, set up by a pass from a double-teamed James. Jones followed with the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the corner that made it 94-89 and left him strutting in front of Atlanta’s courtside fans.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 17 points and 11 rebounds, helping the Cavaliers get off to a fast start. Hughes chipped in with 15 points and Jones had 13.
Newble eclipsed his previous best this season, a 15-point effort against Boston on Tuesday. He hit 8-of-12 from the field, including a couple of 3-pointers, and grabbed eight rebounds.
Cleveland appeared to be pulling away in the second quarter. Hughes scored nine points in the period, including a long 3-pointer that gave the Cavaliers their first double-digit lead, 53-42. They stretched the margin as high as 13 before settling for a 59-50 edge at the break.
The Hawks missed their first five shots of the third quarter, and Cleveland went up 67-53 on Ilgauskas’ tip-in.
But the Cavaliers weren’t exactly burning up the nets, either. On four straight possessions later in the third, Eric Snow missed a layup, Hughes fired up an airball from the corner, Ilgauskas bricked a jumper off the backboard and Devin Brown put up another airball.
Notes: The Hawks wore their blue road uniforms, even though they were the home team. ... This was the third and final meeting of the season between the teams; Cleveland had a 2-1 edge. ... With James in town, the Hawks drew an overflow crowd of 19,335, their fourth sellout of the season. ... An exchange between Hawks coach Mike Woodson and referee Bennett Salvatore during the second quarter. “I know my man’s a rookie, but are you telling me he didn’t get fouled?” Woodson asked, referring to Ilgauskas’ block on Atlanta’s Al Horford. After listening to Bennett’s explanation, Woodson replied, “That ain’t right.”