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The Cavaliers really blew a 26-point lead to the Hawks in the 4th quarter

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Atlanta became the third team to come back from a 26-point fourth-quarter deficit since the 1950s.

The Cleveland Cavaliers blew a 26-point fourth-quarter lead in their 126-125 loss the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. They allowed Atlanta to outscore them, 44-18, in the fourth quarter, blowing a 14-point lead with 3:30 left in regulation.

It was only the third time since the 1955-56 season a team has lost after owning a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter, according to data from NBA.com.

LeBron James virtually turned the ball over, inbounding the ball to Kyrie Irving, who was trapped in the corner and forced into a jump ball against Kent Bazemore with less than five seconds left.

On the next possession, Paul Millsap sent the game to overtime with a buzzer-beating mid-range shot, and the Hawks closed out in overtime after James fouled out.

This Cavaliers’ loss follows a debilitating defeat to Atlanta on Friday. But that one was to a Hawks team that lacked its starting lineup due to either rest or injury. A fully healthy Cleveland team lost by 14 to a Hawks team whose most recognizable name was Tim Hardaway Jr. that day. And despite each of its Big Three playing 40 or more minutes on Sunday, the Cavaliers could not secure a victory despite almost building a 30-point lead.

This isn’t championship basketball

This is a Cleveland Cavaliers team expected to repeat as Eastern Conference champions for the third consecutive season. It’s a team competing to repeat as NBA champions after taking down the Golden State Warriors in last year’s Finals, and a team that has far more talent on paper than any other team in the East.

But Cleveland has been incredibly sloppy on the defensive end this season. The Cavaliers are allowing the second-most points per 100 possessions for a defensive rating of 111.2 that trails only the Los Angeles Lakers.

We thought Cleveland may have gotten back on track after bulldozing the No. 2 Boston Celtics, 114-91, on April 5. But now the defending champs are tied with the Celtics for the East’s top seed yet again.

It used to be a foregone conclusion that James and his team would get everything together when the playoffs came around. But two games out, the Cavaliers look as sloppy as ever. And if they don’t get it together, there’s no telling who could dethrone them as champs when the season is on the line.