CLEVELAND — Kevin Love recorded 25 points and 11 rebounds as the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers still had enough to beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-97 on Saturday in an Eastern Conference finals rematch from last season.
The Cavaliers swept the Hawks out of the playoffs and didn’t have any trouble with them Saturday despite being down to two healthy starters in LeBron James and Kevin Love.
James registered 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Tristan Thompson grabbed 16 rebounds and matched a career high with five assists.
Thompson started at center in place of Timofey Mozgov, who could miss two weeks with a strained right shoulder. Cleveland was also without backup point guard Mo Williams, who has been starting in place of the injured Kyrie Irving.
None of that mattered. The Cavs shot 48 percent, passed for 27 assists on 41 baskets and led by as many as 26 in the third quarter.
Hawks guard Jeff Teague came off the bench to score 13 points, Kyle Korver scored 14 and forward Paul Millsap had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks, who played most of the night without their coach.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was ejected with 6:27 left in the second quarter and the Hawks trailing by 12. Budenholzer appeared to step on the court and bump referee Ben Taylor, prompting the ejection. Kenny Atkinson coached the Hawks the rest of the night. The Hawks have lost four of their last five.
James didn’t score until 5:42 remained in the first half, extending the Cavs’ lead to 46-31 on a night he was happy to facilitate despite the team’s rash of injuries.
Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha made his first start of the season Saturday, but a lot of that had to do with the schedule and opponent. The Hawks have been slow to extend Sefolosha too many minutes in his return from leg and ankle injuries, but with two days off before and after Saturday’s game, Budenholzer wanted to use him on James.
NOTES: Hawks G Dennis Schroder started again at point guard in place of Jeff Teague, who missed three games with an ankle injury. Teague entered early in the first quarter Saturday. … G-F Kent Bazemore made the trip to Cleveland and worked out prior to the game, but did not play. … Cavaliers G J.R. Smith has been accused of choking a 19-year-old New York man while the team was in town last week to play the Knicks. He was not arrested nor questioned by police. “Things aren’t being reported the right way,” Smith said Saturday. “I just don’t want to be a distraction to anybody else and I’ve just got to move forward.” … G Kyrie Irving (knee) is playing 5 on 0 and taking some light contact in 1-on-1 drills, coach David Blatt said. Irving is still without a timeline to return.