Atlanta Hawks' Marvin Williams (24) and Zaza Pachulia (27) battle Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Anderson Varejao (17) for a rebound in Saturday's game, which the Hawks won, 121-94.
ATLANTA — Hawks coach Larry Drew expected a strong start from his team against Cleveland.
Drew was especially pleased to see Atlanta follow through with a strong finish to put away the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half.
Joe Johnson scored 25 points and the Hawks, coming off a loss that prompted Drew to say they quit, responded with their highest-scoring output of the season in a 121-94 rout Saturday night.
"I thought from start to finish we were in an attack mode," Drew said. "You could see the aggression. You could see the energy."
The Cavaliers did not have a similar response to an ugly loss that drew strong criticism from their coach. Chicago's 114-75 blowout of the Cavaliers on Friday was Cleveland's most lopsided home loss in team history, prompting coach Byron Scott to say, "We didn't react to their physical play whatsoever — besides the whining."
Rookie guard Kyrie Irving scored 18 points to lead the Cavaliers, who have lost three straight and six of eight.
"We're going to see what type of men we have," Scott said. "Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to learn, but I don't think we're anywhere near rock bottom yet. Last year we lost 26 in a row, so hopefully we won't see that streak start again."
Cleveland's Antawn Jamison, who had 10 points, bemoaned the team's back-to-back ugly losses.
"To come out last night and perform the way we did was disappointing," Jamison said. "But to come out again, after what we talked about, and pretty much give the same performance, is even worse.
"Last night, we didn't compete at all. But tonight, we do stupid things."
Scott said the Hawks "obviously were playing harder than we were."
Johnson scored 19 points in the first half for Atlanta, which sat all its starters in the final quarter. Jannero Pargo, who opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers, had a season-high 14 points.
Jeff Teague also scored 14 as the Hawks moved past Friday night's 90-76 loss at Philadelphia.
After that defeat, which ended a four-game winning streak, Drew said: "It got tough for us and we quit."
Teague said the Hawks wanted to make sure they did not have another letdown.
"I think we all wanted to bounce back," he said. "I don't think we took (Drew's criticism) personally. We've got to get the killer instinct. I think we're starting to get better at that."
The Hawks improved to 5-1 since losing All-Star center Al Horford for three to four months with a torn left pectoral muscle.
"We understood the importance of winning this game before a five-game road trip," said Josh Smith, who had eight points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
With his team facing a big deficit, Scott also rested his starters in the fourth. Tristan Thompson had 16 points for Cleveland and Alonzo Gee added 14.
Thompson had X-rays on his left ankle after the game. He remained in the game after turning his ankle in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks had 31 assists, one below their season high, and 11 steals. Atlanta scored 23 points off Cleveland's 20 turnovers.
"When we move the ball like that, we become tough to defend," Drew said. "We're just a totally different ballclub when we really move the ball."
The Hawks made 57.8 percent of their shots in the first half to lead 61-42 at the break, then stretched the lead to 75-46 with a 14-4 run to open the second half.
The Cavaliers had a spirited start but couldn't maintain the pace against the Hawks. After a 16-all tie, the Hawks pulled away with a 9-0 run and kept their lead in double figures through most of the second period.
The Hawks stretched the advantage to 81-51 in the third quarter, and Pargo's two 3-pointers pushed it to 95-63 early in the fourth.
Notes: Cavaliers G Daniel Gibson was held out for personal reasons. ... Irving had seven turnovers and two assists. ... Hawks C Zaza Pachulia made his third start and had 13 points. ... G Kirk Hinrich, who has missed the first 17 games of the season while recovering from left shoulder surgery, said he hopes to play during Atlanta's upcoming five-game trip. ... Dr. Xavier Duralde, who performed the surgery on Horford, checked the center on Saturday and said Horford can begin strengthening work in six weeks.