Hawks Held Close to Historic Futility
For nearly nine minutes, Atlanta had not scored a single point in the fourth quarter Tuesday night against Cleveland. Dusty pages were being turned back in the NBA record book.
Has a team in league history ever not scored in a quarter?
Two teams once scored just two points in a quarter. And Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was a San Antonio assistant in 2002-03 when the Spurs held Denver to three points in the first, still a record for that quarter.
"It was like, 'I don't want to be in the record book if we don't score,''' said Atlanta center Al Horford.
Fortunately for Horford and his teammates, the Hawks were spared NBA infamy when forward Josh Smith threw down a dunk with 3:12 left in the game.
But the damage had been done. The Hawks, who were hoping to prove Tuesday in what coach Mike Woodson called a "measuring-stick'' game that they're somewhat in Cleveland's league, trailed just 75-74 entering the quarter. But after their Gobi Desert-like drought, they were down 85-74 before Smith's bucket, and went on to lose 95-84 at Philips Arena.
The Hawks missed their first 10 shots of the quarter. The Cavaliers even played good free-throw defense as the Hawks went 0-of-3 from the line during the stretch.
"It was the game right there,'' Atlanta big man Zaza Pachulia said of his team's dry spell while at least expressing relief the Hawks scored in the quarter (and got to a whopping 10 points by the final buzzer).
That's one difference between the Cavaliers (25-8) and the Hawks (21-9), who will play again Wednesday in Cleveland in a marquee back-to-back. And one difference between the Cavaliers and just about everybody else in the league.
Besides having LeBron James on their side, the Cavaliers have an ability to go into lockdown mode. They did it last Wednesday at Sacramento, when they shut out the Kings in overtime in a 117-104 win. And they did it against Atlanta.
"When you have a group of guys that want to get stops and feel like, if a guy scores on me, you feel a certain way,'' said James, who didn't have much of a scoring game, shooting 6-of-20 for 14 points, but had 10 assists, eight rebounds and five steals. "We feel a certain way when teams score on us, and guys score on us. That's where it starts. Then having a great coaching staff and a great scheme to go out and execute.''
James then was asked if the Cavaliers were trying to shut the Hawks out in the final quarter.
"Yeah, we tried to,'' he said.
Media members laughed. But James didn't. He was serious.
Nothing against another Cleveland All-Star from last season, guard Mo Williams, who scored a team-high 20 points.
But he's not James. Williams offered a more light-hearted response when asked if the Cavaliers were looking to pitch a shutout.
"I don't know if that's possible against a professional team,'' Williams said about whether Dallas scoring two points against the Lakers in a third quarter in 1996-97 and Golden State getting two in the fourth against Toronto in 2003-04 could be vanquished from the record book. "You've got to have a lot of luck.''
Brown sometimes takes some heat. But there's no question this guy knows how to coach defense.
Buddy Ryan never won a Super Bowl as a head coach, but nobody disputes he was a defensive mastermind.
"We're not going to make shots every night,'' said Brown, whose team held the Hawks to 29.4-percent shooting in the fourth quarter and into seven of their 17 turnovers. "We will struggle from the field and turn the ball over. But when we lock in defensively like we did for that stretch, it gives yourself a chance to win a lot of games.''
Tuesday was a good one for the Cavaliers to win. Woodson talked at length before the game about wanting to see how the Hawks stack up against Cleveland after getting walloped 4-0 last spring in an Eastern Conference semifinal while being outscored an average of 18.0 points per game.
But the Cavaliers didn't let their guard down Tuesday. It turned out to be just a mirage that the Hawks, who got a game-most 26 points from Jamal Crawford as Atlanta star Joe Johnson struggled to the tune of 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting, were within one point to start the final quarter.
The Cavaliers didn't score themselves for the first 4:05 of the fourth and were throwing the ball all over the place in what Brown called an "ugly'' game. But they eventually settled down.
The Hawks didn't. They were missing so many shots it was surprising the game wasn't stopped to repaint the rims. It became low comedy when Johnson clanked a technical foul shot with 4:22 left in the game and Crawford bricked a pair of free throws with 4:08 remaining.
"This was a game where they wanted it,'' James said of one that attracted 20,150, the biggest regular-season crowd in Philips' 11-year history. "But I think we wanted it too. This was a measure game for them to see where they were. But for us we want to continue on the path we've been on and continue to play well.''
Wouldn't it figure, though, that after all this work by the Cavaliers, they get to play Atlanta again Wednesday? That was a consolation for the Hawks as they filed out of the building.
"It was just a complete meltdown,'' Horford said. "The best thing is that we get to play them (again).''
The odds are that after Tuesday's embarrassing stretch the Hawks won't come close Wednesday to becoming the first NBA team to have a scoreless quarter.
But that's not how James thinks. No doubt he'll believe once again his Cavaliers can extend an Atlanta drought to 12 straight minutes.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @christomasson