LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers generated a playoff-like atmosphere at Atlanta’s Philips Arena.
The bad news for the Hawks was that a disastrous fourth quarter made the game feel like last year’s four straight playoff losses to the Cavaliers.
Cleveland held Atlanta scoreless for almost nine minutes to open the fourth quarter and scored the first 10 points of the period to break open a close game and beat the Hawks, 95-84, last night.
The sellout crowd of 20,150 set a Philips Arena regular-season record. Hawks fans booed every time James touched the ball, but the Cavaliers controlled the final period to earn their fifth straight win.
Cleveland has held three straight opponents under 90 points.
“That’s what we do,’’ James said. “It’s an ongoing thing. Defensively, we lock down in the fourth quarter. That’s where games are won. That’s where games are decided.’’
Mo Williams had 20 points to lead the Cavaliers in their first game against the Hawks since sweeping four games in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Delonte West had 17 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 15 off Cleveland’s bench. James had 14 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals but made only 6 of 20 shots from the field.
“A lot of teams are trying to force me to pass the ball, which is OK,’’ James said. “I have guys that can make shots. A lot of teams don’t think my guys can make plays out on the court. And I’m OK with that, because I have a lot of faith in my teammates.’’
The Hawks were outscored, 20-10, in the fourth quarter.
Lakers 124, Warriors 118 - Kobe Bryant had a season-high 44 points and 11 assists while making all 16 of his free throws, and host Los Angeles survived Golden State’s 55-percent shooting.
Pau Gasol had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the defending NBA champions, who relied even more heavily than usual on Bryant to avoid their third loss in four games over the past five days.
Bryant came through with 17 points in the fourth quarter, clinching his seventh 40-point game of the season on two free throws with 4:04 left. He has 103 40-point games in his career, third-most in NBA history.
Corey Maggette scored 25 points and Monta Ellis added 22 for the Warriors.
Rockets 108, Hornets 100 - Aaron Brooks scored 27 points, Luis Scola added 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Houston overcame Chris Paul’s triple-double and David West’s career game to beat visiting New Orleans.
Paul had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists for his 11th career triple-double. West had 44 points and 12 rebounds, but the Hornets still slipped to 2-13 on the road this season.
Shane Battier scored 20 points and Carl Landry added 18 off the bench for the Rockets.
Thunder 110, Wizards 98 - Kevin Durant had 35 points and 11 rebounds, Jeff Green added 18 points, and Oklahoma City won in Washington for its first four-game winning streak in 3 1/2 years.
It was the fifth straight game that Durant topped the 30-point mark; he’s exceeded 30 points nine times in 14 December games.
Knicks 104, Pistons 87 - David Lee had a season-high 30 points and 12 rebounds to help New York hand host Detroit its eighth straight loss.
Wilson Chandler added 23 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks. Richard Hamilton had 16 points and Rodney Stuckey scored 15 for Detroit despite combining to shoot just 11 of 34.
Bulls 104, Pacers 95 - Derrick Rose scored 28 points and Chicago blew an early 19-point lead before recovering in the second half to beat visiting Indiana.
Spurs 117, Timberwolves 99 - Richard Jefferson scored 24 points, including four 3-pointers, as host San Antonio rolled to its third straight victory.