CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and the injury-riddled Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 99-83 on Wednesday night.
Irving's big night came at a perfect time for Cleveland, which had lost five of six overall and six straight at home. The margin of victory was Cleveland's biggest of the season.
The Cavaliers, who had only 10 available players, announced earlier in the day that center Anderson Varejao will have surgery Thursday to repair a muscle that split near his right knee. He will miss six to eight weeks. Varejao was having an All-Star caliber season, averaging 14.1 points and an NBA-leading 14.4 rebounds.
Josh Smith scored 17 points to lead Atlanta, which has lost a season-worst four straight. Hawks coach Larry Drew, who called his team “soft” following Tuesday night's loss to Minnesota, watched his team get completely outplayed after tying the game early in the third quarter.
Alonzo Gee scored 15 points for Cleveland, while Tristan Thompson added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Rookie Tyler Zeller, who moved into the starting lineup after Varejao was injured Dec. 18, scored 11 points and had a career-high 12 rebounds.
Jeff Teague added 15 points and Al Horford scored 14 for Atlanta.