Big matchup on tap as Cavs visit Hawks

( - In what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James will lead the Cleveland Cavaliers into Philips Arena Friday night to face the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks clinched a playoff berth already and lead the Eastern Conference by 10 games over the Chicago Bulls. Cleveland is fourth in the east, just a half- game behind the Bulls for the second seed.

The Hawks are surging once again with five consecutive victories. Atlanta has won three straight as the host, including Tuesday's 104-96 triumph over the Houston Rockets.

Atlanta rallied from 15 points down over the final 10 minutes and beat the Rockets to clinch the NBA's first playoff berth. Houston was without the NBA's leading scorer, James Harden, who sat because of a one-game suspension after he kicked James in the groin on Sunday.

Jeff Teague scored 25 points, Paul Millsap finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Al Horford added 18 points, including the go-ahead jumper down the stretch for the victors.

"It could've easily gone the other way fast," said Horford. "We stayed with it and kept fighting. It's a credit to our team."

The Rockets led 87-72 after Josh Smith and Pablo Prigioni opened the fourth quarter with 3-pointers, but they made just one field goal over the next seven minutes. Atlanta's subsequent 21-3 run, fueled by seven points from Mike Scott, gave Atlanta its first lead since it was 17-15 midway through the first quarter.

It was even at 96-96 before Horford hit an 18-footer from the baseline with under two minutes to go. Horford blocked Jones at the other end, and Jones missed two critical free throws on Houston's next possession.

Millsap, Teague and Dennis Schroder each went 2-for-2 from the foul line in the final minute to seal the comeback win.

The Cavs have won two straight after back-to-back losses. They started this run with a 31-point trouncing of the Boston Celtics at home on Tuesday, then traveled to Toronto and left with a 120-112 win over the Raptors.

James, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February, posted 29 points and 14 assists to help guide the Cavaliers.

All five starters and James Jones scored in double figures for Cleveland, with the latter hitting 4-of-7 from 3-point range en route to a season-high 14 points. Kyrie Irving had 26 and eight assists, and Kevin Love tallied 22 with 10 rebounds.

"Toronto is a very good basketball team," said Cavs coach David Blatt. "They didn't quit, nor did we expect them to."

Toronto trailed by 10 after three quarters, but Lou Williams scored 11 points and assisted on an Amir Johnson hook shot in the first three minutes of the fourth. He brought Toronto back to within four by himself, and Terrence Ross's corner 3 cut the lead 91-90 with 8:50 left.

Out of a timeout, Williams hit again from deep and the Raptors had their first lead since early in the first quarter.

But it was James who owned the final stages of this one. His two-handed slam with 5:51 remaining restored Cleveland's lead. After Greivis Vasquez tied it at 97-97 with a free throw split seconds later, James found Jones for a 3, hit two free throws and potted triples on consecutive possessions to give Cleveland a 108-101 advantage.

The Cavs return home Saturday to host the Phoenix Suns, then play four straight on the road.

The Hawks have taken two of three meetings with Cleveland this season and six of the last seven. Atlanta has won four in a row as the host in this series.