CLEVELAND (AP) 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.
The Nationals face the Rockies at Coors Field for the first half of this work week. Here are three things to watch for:
Can the Nationals stay above .500? Stephen Strasburg’s impressive start along with Ryan Zimmerman’s two homers and two RBI kept Washington from being swept by the lowly Marlins.
Who will produce with Anthony Rendon out? While the Nats 3B was sidelined with an elbow injury after being hit by a pitch in Saturday’s outing against the Marlins, Howie Kendrick started in his place. Kendrick went 1-for-3 vs Miami with one RBI and one strikeout. In terms of replacing Rendon’s hitting prowess, Victor Robles has started a streak of his own. The youngster is hot on a seven game hit streak, including a bunt over the infield Sunday.
Will the Nationals ever sure up their end game? Yesterday’s ninth inning was on the brink of disaster. Kyle Barraclough allowed back-to-back walks, then Sean Doolittle loaded the bases. Luckily for the Nats, crisis averted.
Download the MyTeams app (https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/myteams-nbc-sports ) for even more Nationals content, and check out the latest episode of the Racing Presidents podcast below.
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Friday saw the Toronto Maple Leafs pull ahead 3-2 and the Colorado Avalanche eliminate the favored Calgary Flames. Saturday provided another elimination game and two teams pulled ahead 3-2 in their series.
Here are the results from Saturday.
St. Louis Blues eliminate Winnipeg Jets with 3-2 win
The Blues return to the second round of the playoffs after they were eliminated in the first round last season.
The Blues rally started 23 seconds into the game, when Jaden Schwartz put home a Brayden Schenn rebound.
Schwartz followed with two more goals, completing the hat trick. It's the second natural hat trick in a playoff series clinching game since Geoff Courtnall in 1992.
The Blues await the winner of the Nashville-Dallas series.
Dallas Stars pull ahead of Nashville Predators in 5-3 victory
The Stars were able to steal one from the Predators at Bridgestone Arena thanks to Jason Dickinson and Alexander Radulov's two goal performances.
Tyler Seguin added a goal of his own to pull the Stars ahead 4-2 at the end of the second period, and Ben Bishop recorded 30 saves.
The Stars have a chance to close the series at home Monday night.
Washington Capitals take upperhand on Carolina Hurricanes with 6-0 shutout
After dropping Game 4 in Carolina 2-1, the Caps exploded for six goals against the Hurricanes in a 6-0 win.
Nicklas Backstrom scored the opening two goals. He leads the Capitals in playoff goals with five and had a four point night.
The Caps also got production from their bottom six with Brett Connolly's goal and Nic Dowd's converted penalty shot. It's the first penalty shot a Caps player has successfully made in the playoffs.
Braden Holtby's shutout gave him seven in the playoffs, surpassing Olaf Kolzig's six for the franchise lead. The Caps have a chance to win the series in Carolina Monday night.
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