CLEVELAND (AP) – Kevin Love scored a season-high 25 points, LeBron James added 19 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-97 on Saturday night.
The teams met for the first time since the Cavaliers swept the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals, and it didn’t take long for Cleveland to continue its dominance.
The Cavaliers took control after trailing 17-16 midway through the first quarter. Cleveland quickly built a 10-point lead, stretched the margin to 57-40 late in the first half and the Hawks never recovered.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was ejected in the second quarter after making contact with an official. Budenholzer was given a technical for arguing a call, bumped referee Mark Ayotte after stepping on the floor and was quickly tossed.
Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap each scored 14 points for Atlanta, which has lost four of five.
Love and James both had 11 rebounds. J.R. Smith scored 15 points while Tristan Thompson tied a season high with 16 rebounds.
Both teams played short-handed because of injuries. Guard Mo Williams (sore right ankle) and center Timofey Mozgov (strained right shoulder) were out for Cleveland, while guard Kent Bazemore (sprained right ankle) didn’t play for Atlanta.
Jeff Teague, the Hawks’ usual starter at point guard, returned after missing two games with a sprained left ankle and scored 13 points. He came off the bench when Dennis Schroder picked up his second foul 1:48 into the game.
The Cavaliers’ latest rash of injuries has left James and Love as their only healthy starters. Kyrie Irving (fractured left kneecap) and Iman Shumpert (right wrist surgery) have yet to play this season.
Hawks: Bazemore, who has missed three straight games, worked out on the court before the game but there’s no timetable for his return. …. Small forward Thabo Sefolosha made his first start of the season after coming off the bench for 11 games. He scored 13 points. … Tiago Splitter left in the first half with a sore right hip.
Cavaliers: Thompson, usually one of the first players off the bench, started at center with Mozgov out. He scored nine points with a career-high five assists … Williams has missed two games and is doubtful against Orlando on Monday.
Hawks: Host Boston on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: Host Orlando on Monday.