James scores 25 has 17 assists, as Cavs beat Hawks 123-114

CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James always takes pride in being efficient. His numbers Tuesday night were several steps beyond that.

CAVS

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, passes against Atlanta Hawks' Taurean Prince in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)


James had 25 points and tied a career-high with 17 assists, as Cleveland defeated the Atlanta Hawks 123-114 — the Cavaliers' 15th win in 16 games.

James, as he has done all season, turned in an almost error-free performance. He was 11 of 13 from the field, had seven rebounds and two turnovers. James was given a standing ovation when he was removed from the game with 2:34 remaining.

The four-time MVP set the tone for the entire team. The Cavaliers hit a season-high 20 3-pointers, including nine in the first quarter. Cleveland had a season-high 35 assists.

"For me to get assists means somebody's making shots," James said. "That's always been an enjoyment of mine to be able to see my teammates reap the benefits of the pass that I try to put on time and on target."

Kyle Korver had 19 points, including six 3-pointers. Kevin Love, returning after missing a game with a hip injury, scored 17 points, all in the first half. Love had 11 points in the first quarter after sitting out Saturday's game against Philadelphia. He had 12 rebounds.

Cleveland's ball movement kept Atlanta's defenders scrambling all night in chasing the open man.

"Guys are sharing the ball extremely well," James said. "When the ball is moving, energy is behind it and guys are in rhythm."

"It's a tried and true formula," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "You have a great player and you surround him with 3-point shooters. LeBron is obviously a great player and a great facilitator. We defended him pretty well but when we pressured the ball, he kicked it out for open shots."

James is shooting 58 percent from the field and still makes a point of finding teammates.

"That's just who I am," he said. "I've never liked being a volume shooter. That's just not my game. Me being efficient just helps our team ultimately."

Atlanta fell to 6-21, the worst record in the league. Taurean Prince scored a career-high 24 points while Kent Bazemore had 20.

Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade missed the game because of a sore left knee. He is averaging 11.5 points and shooting 46 percent.

The Cavaliers built a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter and set a team record with 10 or more 3-pointers in 17 consecutive games.

The Hawks defeated the Cavaliers 117-115 in Cleveland on Nov. 5, which was Atlanta's second win of the season. Atlanta had beaten Cleveland three of the last four games dating to last season.

Dennis Schroder scored 14 points after sitting out the final 8:14 of the Hawks' loss in New York on Sunday.

Jose Calderon had a season-high 14 points while J.R. Smith had eight assists, his most of the season.

CAVALIER RETURN

Center Tristan Thompson, playing for the first time since Nov. 1 when he strained his left calf, was scoreless and didn't have a rebound in 6 minutes. Thompson is on limited minutes and didn't play in the second half.

NEW EXPERIENCE

Rookie center Tyler Cavanaugh, who is on a two-way contract, made his first NBA start for Atlanta, scoring 11 points with nine rebounds in 28 minutes.

"It stunk because they kind of took it to us tonight," he said. "But it was a great opportunity to compete against the best player in the league."

TIP-INS

Hawks: F John Collins (sprained left shoulder) practiced with Atlanta's G-League team — the Erie BayHawks — at Quicken Loans Arena earlier in the day, but missed his sixth straight game. ... C Mike Muscala (sprained left ankle) did not travel with the team, while C Dewayne Dedmon (left leg stress reaction) missed his seventh game in a row.

Cavaliers: Wade, who plays point guard with the second unit, missed his second game of the season. James took over most of those duties when the bench players were on the court. ... Cleveland has scored 100 or more points in 21 consecutive games. ... Cleveland has won nine straight at home.

UP NEXT

Hawks: Host Detroit on Thursday. The Pistons beat Atlanta 111-104 in Detroit on Nov. 10.

Cavaliers: Host the Lakers on Thursday. Cleveland has won the last six games in the series.