ATLANTA — No LeBron James. No Al Horford.
Late decisions by Cleveland and Atlanta to hold out the two stars could have led to a letdown, but Paul Millsap made sure the Hawks were tough down the stretch.
Millsap scored 26 points and took over for Atlanta in the fourth quarter to help hold off a Cleveland comeback and the Hawks beat the short-handed Cavaliers 109-101 on Tuesday night.
James, celebrating his 30th birthday, was held out with a sore left knee. Cavaliers forward Shawn Marion was held out with a left ankle sprain.
Horford left the court with an upset stomach only minutes before tipoff.
Hearing the news that James won't be in uniform can be disappointing — even for the opposing team.
"Different guys aren't playing, guys on our team aren't playing, guys for them aren't playing," said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. "It's just human nature, as much as you want to fight it, it can be hard. We don't want to lower our expectations ... but it wasn't a pretty game."
The Hawks led by 17 points early in the second half but had to hold off a comeback by Cleveland, which had 35 points and nine assists from Kyrie Irving.
"I had to be aggressive; we had some guys down," Irving said. "I just kept shooting. ... We gave ourselves a chance to win. We just couldn't get over the hump."
Irving made 13 of 27 shots from the field.
"I just thought Kyrie played his heart out," said Cavaliers coach David Blatt. "I can't say enough about that kid. I just think the world of that kid."
After a jam by Tristan Thompson cut the Atlanta lead to 93-90, Millsap scored Atlanta's next eight points. Millsap had 10 points in the fourth quarter.
"That's what we expect out of him," said Atlanta guard Jeff Teague of Millsap.
Teague had 23 points and 11 assists, and Kyle Korver sank five 3-pointers while scoring 19 points.
Thompson had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers have lost three of four. Before the game, Blatt addressed speculation of unrest on the team.
"I didn't feel a necessity to talk to the guys about that because that's simply not the case," Blatt said. "And just because things are reported or said, it doesn't mean that they're true.
"We have a very good group. Close knit. Guys are engaged, guys are listening. We went through a couple of tough games. A few short games ago we were 18-10 and looking good."
James' status is day to day.
"Obviously, we want to get him right," Blatt said after James was pulled from the starting lineup about 90 minutes before the game.
James also was held out of Cleveland's Dec. 11 game at Oklahoma City with soreness in the knee.
Cavaliers: G Matthew Dellavedova had six points in his fourth start of the season. ... Irving had eight turnovers. Irving's 27 shots from the field set a season high. ... The Cavaliers shot only 34.1 percent from the field in the first half and made only 6 of 21 shots (28.6) in the second quarter.
Hawks: C Pero Antic had five points in his first start of the season. ... Millsap blocked three shots. ... Shelvin Mack, who set a career high with 24 points in Atlanta's 127-98 win at Cleveland on Dec. 17, did not play. ... Two players were assigned to NBA Development League teams — guard John Jenkins to Idaho Stampede and center Adreian Payne to Austin.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love had seven points and seven rebounds, making only one of eight shots from the field, before leaving the game in the third quarter with tightness in his back. Love said he had a similar problem once before and was fine the following day.
James wore a gray suit as he watched the game from the bench. He shared a hug and laugh with singer Usher, who had a front-row seat near the Cavaliers' bench, during a timeout.
Cavaliers: Host Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Hawks: At Utah on Friday.
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