ATLANTA — The Cleveland Cavaliers hit a season-high 18 3-pointers, but it also took a defensive change in the second half that showed off LeBron James‘ all-round game to keep their winning streak alive.
James, who scored 24 points on 11 shots, switched over to cover Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder and the Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 121-114 for their 10th consecutive victory Thursday night.
Schroder scored 27 points, but the 6-foot-8 James slowed him down enough in the second half for the Cavaliers (15-7) to win despite giving up the most points during their streak.
“I take a lot of pride in my defensive abilities to matter if I’m guarding a point guard, a power forward, a center or a small forward. I take the challenge,” James said. “My teammates wanted me to take the challenge and I wanted to take the challenge.”
“LeBron did an unbelievable job. One of the best I’ve seen all year,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “That was big time for us, for him to guard Schroder. He got some big stops.”
Schroder scored 17 points in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting as he got to the rim at will against Jose Calderon but was 3 of 7 in the second half with James hounding him.
“He’s one of the fastest guys in our league and he was kicking our butts in the first half,” James said. “I tried to use my intelligence against him with the help of my teammates and turn his water down.”
James also contributed plenty on offense, handing out 12 assists and making 3 of 6 3-pointers.
Atlanta, down by 12 points late in the third quarter, closed to 113-112 on two free throws by Ersan Ilyasova, but James hit a 3-pointer with just under two minutes left to help the Cavaliers regain control.
The Cavaliers, who took 39 3-point attempts, shot 51.9 percent from the floor, the same as the Hawks.
Ilyasova had 22 points and Marco Bellinelli scored 18, both coming off the bench for the Hawks (4-17).
The Cavaliers, who started the season 5-7, got back on track thanks in part to their improved defense. They held four of their previous five opponents to fewer than 100 points.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak by the Cavaliers to the Hawks, who led by 16 points in the first quarter at Cleveland on Nov. 5 and won 117-115.
“They are a tough matchup for us. Schroder puts a lot of pressure on the defense and they have multiple shooters,” Lue said.
Cleveland went on an 8-0 run after halftime and outscored Atlanta 36-23 in the third quarter to take a 99-90 lead. The Cavaliers made 7 of 13 3-point attempts in the period and shot 61.9 percent overall in the quarter.
“We hit some shots in that allowed me to concentrate on my defense,” James said.
The Hawks, down 42-35 after the first quarter, led by as many as nine points in the second, and were up 67-63 at halftime thanks to 55.6 percent shooting.
James, who made his first seven shots, had 13 first-half points, with 11 coming in the first quarter.
Schroder had 11 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter, and Ilyasova and Belinelli combined for 23 points off the bench, 16 of them coming in the second quarter.
“It’s amazing when the best player in the world tries to guard you and tries to stop you,” Schroder said. “All that matters is the win. We didn’t get it.”
The Cavaliers shot 66.7 percent in the first quarter but dropped to 33.3 percent in the second as they went 1 of 8 from behind the 3-point arc after starting the game 7 of 9.
“I’m proud of the way the guys competed, their activity and their togetherness,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We made them go to things a little bit different.”
NOTES: Cavaliers backup G Iman Shumpert will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday. He has missed five of the past six games, playing seven minutes at Philadelphia on Monday before the knee swelled again. … Hawks starting C Dewayne Dedmon will be sidelined for 3-to-6 weeks after an MRI on Wednesday revealed a stress reaction in his left tibia. … Rookie F/C John Collins moved over to replace Dedmon with F Luke Babbitt returning after missing three games because of a back strain. … Collins had 13 points and seven rebounds before hurting his left shoulder late in the fourth quarter. … Hawks F/C Mike Muscala (ankle) remains sidelined. …Cavaliers F LeBron James passed Alex English, who had 10,659 field goals, for 10th on the career list. … The Cavaliers play Memphis at home on Saturday. The Hawks are at Brooklyn on Saturday and then play the Nets in Atlanta on Monday.