- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Atlanta Hawks fought as hard as they could, and it still wasn’t enough.

They will now have to do even more - and something that’s never been done - to save their season.

Shelvin Mack couldn’t get two potential game-tying 3-pointers to drop in the final seconds of overtime and the Hawks fell 114-111 to the Cavaliers on Sunday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Despite playing without Kyle Korver and then losing Al Horford to an ejection in the first half, the Hawks battled back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth and nearly stole one after losing the first two games of the series at home. It took a 37-point, 18-rebound, 13-assist performance by LeBron James to hold off the Hawks, who must win Game 4 on Tuesday night or head into summer.

No team in NBA history has overcome a 3-0 deficit.

“It’s going to be a tough task,” Jeff Teague said. “But somebody’s got to do it one day.”

James shook off an atrocious shooting start and withstood Atlanta’s gritty comeback to record his 12th career postseason triple-double. He made a 3-pointer with 36.4 seconds left to put the Cavs ahead by one, and the superstar dropped a runner with 12.8 left to make it 114-111.

“He just wouldn’t let us lose,” coach David Blatt said. “Amazing.”

Atlanta had two chances to tie it in the final seconds, but Mack missed his two 3-pointers.

Teague scored 30 points and Paul Millsap 22 for the Hawks, who scratched and clawed for 53 minutes. Down 88-78 in the fourth, the Hawks showed championship toughness and nearly pulled off a win that would have guaranteed them another home game on Thursday.

Teague dropped a nasty, step-back jumper with 55 seconds left to put the Hawks up 111-109, but James answered - following an offensive rebound by Tristan Thompson - to knock down a corner 3 like the one he made at the buzzer to beat Chicago in the second round, making it 112-111 with 36.4 seconds left.

James then hit his runner over Millsap and the Cavs and 20,000 fans held their breath as Mack took two cracks at the rim.

Already in a bind, the Hawks were dealt another major blow when Horford was ejected in the final minute of the first half for throwing an elbow at Dellavedova’s head.

As the two hustled for a loose ball on the floor, Dellavedova rolled up on Horford’s right leg and the Atlanta big man responded by bringing his right arm down hard and appearing to connect with the side of the scrappy Australian guard’s face.

The three officials took their time watching a review of the play before assessing Horford a Flagrant 2 and tossing him. At that point, Horford had been the Haws’ best player with 14 points and without him they didn’t have enough firepower to hang with the Cavs.

Horford said he was upset that Dellavedova was at his legs.

“I did think he went at me, but I should have handled it better,” he said. “Shouldn’t have gotten caught up in that and it’s something I’ll definitely learn from. The game before I got hit in the knees and it just kind of played over again.”

Horford was also irritated by Dellavedova, who ended Korver’s season with a hustle play in Game 2.

“You’re always upset when you lose one of your teammates. He’s (Dellavedova) a player that plays hard, but there’s got to be a line at some point. He’s got to learn. He’s only been in this league for a couple of years, but he’s got to learn that at the end of the day, it’s a big brotherhood here. Guys look out for each other and I don’t think it was malicious but he’s got to learn.”

Without Korver, the Hawks were missing one of their most reliable offensive weapons, though the dead-eyed shooter had been off the mark during much of this postseason. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Kent Bazemore, who earlier in the day stood by his comments that he believed the Hawks were the better team.

He didn’t do any talking in the minutes leading up the game, but sat quietly facing his locker and listening to his headphones while his teammates dressed.

On a white board in Atlanta’s locker room, the Hawks were urged to “Play with pace - play with pass - together.”

They started well, getting eight points from Horford while taking a 12-4 lead. But his ejection was costly and the Hawks are now one loss from having their season end.

“I’m very proud of the way our guys competed,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “That’s how we’re built.”


Teague added seven assists and six rebounds in 42 minutes. He blew by Cleveland’s guards for several easy layups and scored all of Atlanta’s points in overtime.

“His aggressiveness, his ability to get in the paint, he made 3s,” Budenholzer said. “He was very good.”


Hawks: Atlanta shot better from the outside, but is just 21 of 79 on 3-pointers in the series. … The Hawks went 28 of 32 from the line.

Cavaliers: James has 12 postseason career triple-doubles. … Since Jan. 19, the Cavs are 25-2 at home.

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