The Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith (5) pushes to the lane against the Cleveland Cavaliers' Antawn Jamison, left, in the first half in Cleveland on Sunday.
CLEVELAND — The Atlanta Hawks limped into their game Sunday dogged by injuries and illness.
Joe Johnson made sure everyone felt better.
Johnson, despite playing out of position because of Atlanta’s short roster, scored 28 points and the Hawks rolled to a 103-87 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Atlanta had only 10 players available, but took an early lead that it never relinquished. The Hawks shot 55 percent in the first quarter, with Johnson scoring 13 points.
“It was very important for us to get off to a good start and sustain it (because of the injuries), especially on the road,” Johnson said. “I just tried to take what the defense gave me.”
Alonzo Gee matched a career high with 20 points to lead Cleveland, which has lost three straight. Rookie Kyrie Irving scored 19 points and had 10 assists for his first career double-double.
Forward Vladimir Radmanovic missed the game with a back injury sustained in Friday’s win over Washington. Forward Marvin Williams (hip flexor), shooting guard Willie Green (hamstring) and point guard Jannero Pargo (stomach virus) were also out for the Hawks.
Williams’ injury has forced coach Larry Drew to use a starting lineup that features Johnson, a six-time All-Star at shooting guard, playing small forward. Jeff Teague and Kirk Hinrich started in the backcourt to go with power forward Josh Smith, and center Zaza Pachulia.
“Everything kind of happened for a reason,” Johnson said. “You now have three guys that are playmakers, can handle the ball, and make things happen.”
At least for the short term, Atlanta’s new look is working. Teague added 18 points and Hinrich scored 14.
“I’m glad we played as well as we played because, through the course of the game, I kept checking with the coaches to make sure we weren’t exposing ourselves with bad matchups,” Drew said.
Cleveland, playing its first game since trading guard Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, struggled on both ends of the floor. Atlanta shot 50.6 percent from the field while Cleveland hit 39.3 of its shots.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth and I don’t think we ever really responded after that,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said.
Atlanta’s biggest lead came at 69-50 before the Cavaliers got back in the game with an 18-5 run that cut the lead to 74-68. Johnson scored at the end of the third quarter and started the fourth with another basket to begin an 8-0 run as the Hawks regained control.
The fourth quarter began with Irving on the bench for some rest, a decision Scott didn’t regret. Sessions’ departure means Daniel Gibson will be the backup point guard.
“He was pretty tired, playing that whole third quarter,” Scott said of Irving, who played 37 minutes. “We still have to find a way when he comes out of the game to run our offense a little bit smoother.”
Johnson, who has battled a sore left knee most of the season, was 11 of 16 from the field, had five assists and four rebounds.
Atlanta extended its winning streak over Cleveland to six games. Smith scored seven points, hitting 3 of 15 from the field, but had eight rebounds and a season-high nine assists.
“It came down to how we started the game,” Irving said. “At times we didn’t play with the sense of urgency we needed. To beat a good team, you have to be that much better on that day.”
Rookie Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 pick in the draft, made his first NBA start at center. Thompson is a natural power forward, but Scott hasn’t been pleased with the play of Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden at center. Thompson scored seven points and had six rebounds in 35 minutes.
Antawn Jamison scored 17 points for the Cavaliers, but was 6 for 22 from the field.
It’s unclear how many players will be available for the Hawks when they host Boston on Monday. Pargo was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on Sunday because of his stomach virus and didn’t travel with the team to Atlanta.
NOTES: Pachuila had a game-high 12 rebounds. … Jason Collins, who missed the previous 21 games with a sprained left elbow, played the final three minutes. … The Hawks play their next three games at home, including a rematch with the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Cleveland plays at New Jersey on Monday. … Irving didn’t have much to say when asked about Duke’s loss to Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament. “Duke lost?” he said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We were on vacation.” … Scott said C Anderson Varejao (right wrist fracture) will be evaluated by the team’s medical staff this week. Varejao has been sidelined since Feb. 11. … F Luke Walton, acquired in the trade with the Lakers, dressed but didn’t play. He appeared in only nine games with Los Angeles. Walton has been bothered by a back injury most of the season and has recently had gastroenteritis.