CLEVELAND — Larry Drew wanted the Cavaliers to throw out the first six losses and start a new chapter as they forged ahead after coach Tyronn Lue was fired Sunday.
Not all agreed with the philosophy of Drew, the acting coach.
“I’m not going to forget the first six games and I don’t think anybody should,” Larry Nance Jr. said at shootaround. “That’s disappointing and I’m using it as motivation, as should everybody else. Yes, it’s a new chapter, but at the same time, within the same book.”
The Cavs avoided the fifth 0-7 start in franchise history Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena as the last winless team in the league finally broke through with a 136-114 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Proving they could rebound from an emotional two days without the much-admired Lue, the Cavs avenged their worst loss of the season, a 22-point setback in the Cavs’ home opener Oct. 21.
With five-time All-Star Kevin Love wearing a walking boot and saying pregame that he would miss at least two to three weeks with a left big toe injury, the Cavs knew they would have to make up for his absence collectively.
Rodney Hood played with newfound confidence, George Hill got off to a hot start and a season-high seven players scored in double figures.
Hood pitched in 26 points, his best since he joined the Cavs in a Feb. 8 trade with the Utah Jazz. He shot 9-of-13 from the field, 4-for-4 from 3-point range and 4-of-6 from the line.
Cedi Osman added 20 points, two off his career high, with five rebounds and three assists. Hill added 17 points, Jordan Clarkson 15 and Sam Dekker 12 points and nine rebounds. Rookie Collin Sexton contributed season highs with 17 points and eight rebounds, along with three assists, and Tristan Thompson scored 11 with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Rookie Trae Young led the Hawks (2-5) with 24 points, making 9-of-13 shots.
In the first eight minutes of the third quarter, the Cavs played perhaps their best defense of the season. Their ball movement improved. They totaled their most 3-pointers (13) in a game and shot their highest percentage (52, their previous best 37) beyond the arc.
In the third quarter, they opened just their second double-digit lead of the season, the first a 15-point bulge in the loss to the Hawks. This time Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was forced to call timeout twice in a span of 33 seconds as the Cavs went ahead 74-60 on dunks by Dekker, Hill and Thompson. The Cavs stretched it to 90-72 with a 7-0 run, which included a three-point play by Hood.
The Cavs ended the third quarter with a 99-87 lead, their 41 points equaling their highest scoring quarter of the season (matching 41 in the third at Minnesota).
Coming out with energy, the Cavs opened an 11-point lead in the first quarter as Hood scored nine and Hill eight. A jumper by Nance put them ahead 29-18 at the 3:30 mark. But the Hawks closed with a 13-6 run to cut the deficit to four at the first break.
The game stayed close in the second quarter, with the Cavs leading at the half for the first time this season.
The Cavs avoided matching the dubious starts of four other teams. In 1970, the franchise’s first season, the team opened 0-15. In 1972-73, the Cavs went 0-7. In 1984-85, they began 0-9 and still made the playoffs. In 1995-96, they started 0-7, but reached the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.
On Monday, the Cavs insisted they had not been pressing as the losses mounted following the free-agency departure of four-time league Most Valuable Player LeBron James.
“I don’t know if they’re pressing because the expectation wasn’t the same as last year,” General Manager Koby Altman said. “Maybe you could say that last year in the playoffs when guys were getting tight and hadn’t been in that situation before. It’s just been a very, very frustrating start and we haven’t played our best.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.