CLEVELAND -- LeBron James had one of the greatest passing nights of his career and the Cleveland Cavaliers had their most prolific outside shooting night of the season in Tuesday's 123-114 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
James tied a career high with 17 assists and the Cavs hit a season-high 20 3-pointers while setting a new franchise record by hitting 10 3s or more for the 17th straight game.
"They put in the work first of all," James said of his teammates who combined to go 18-for-35 from 3 (he went 2-for-3 himself). "Individuals who make the shots on the 17 assists that I had, they put in the work. My job is when I have two on the ball or I see a guy running or I see a guy open, just try to put it in his pocket. I know how my teammates like the ball. I know if my teammates, each individual, if they like laces or no laces or laces out or whatever the case may be. I just try to make them comfortable for when they catch the ball all they've got to do is let it go either from the paint, from the perimeter and we live with the results."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the Hawks' defensive schemes allowed James to open things up for his teammates.
"I think they do a lot of double-teaming and tilting with the bigs, so that allows LeBron to just pick the guys apart," Lue said. "He's able to make passes over the double-team or to guys cutting for layups. When we're playing with pace and getting out in transition, it's tough for those guys to get back and get matched. Just a credit to the guys offensively just doing the right thing and making the right plays."
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, who has now seen the Cavs set an NBA record for the regular season (25 made 3s), an NBA record for the postseason (25 made 3s) and hit 38 3s in their past two meetings against his team, tipped his hat to James.
"It's a tried-and-true formula," Budenholzer said. "You have a great player and you surround him with 3-point shooters. LeBron is obviously a great player and a great facilitator. We defended him pretty well, but when we pressured the ball, he kicked it out for open shots."
James' 17 assists accounted for 42 points for the Cavs on Tuesday, with eight of his passes leading to 3s.
"I said before we went on this win streak, started playing better, it just, it didn't quite feel like us because our identity had always been, miss or make, pushing the ball, playing with a great pace, playing downhill and kind of spraying out and getting those 3-point shots up and making it at a very high level," said Kevin Love, who went 4-for-5 from deep against Atlanta. "I think you saw that tonight. You've seen it over the last 17 games, so that just feels like us, and of course that's a product of how the league and where the league is trending to."
"It's like I've run out of ways to explain his greatness," said Kyle Korver, who went 6-for-9 from 3. "He's just amazing. He makes all of us better than we really are. That's just the way he plays, the way he leads the game. He's had to be in attack mode a lot of nights this season, but tonight you kind of feel the guys were hitting shots and he just went into playmaker mode. He was really looking for those passes. ... He has an ability to feel the game and he can do whatever the games call for (from) him, whether it's him being the scorer or getting down in the post, knock down 3s. He's kind of finding the whole thing right now. He's playing really good basketball."
And the Cavs' 3-point barrage thus far has occurred with Kyrie Irving playing for Boston (177 made 3-pointers last season) and the guy they traded him for, Isaiah Thomas (245 made 3-pointers last season), in street clothes.
"We still got a lot of shooting on this team, and still having Isaiah out who is a great shooter also. I just think it's important to have the right mix of guys on the floor at the same time," Lue said. "And that's what we've been able to find as coaches and as players, we found the right pieces on the floor to go with each other and that kind of opens up 3-point shots for our guys and spacing for other guys. So it's a good match and a good fit for us."