The Cleveland Cavaliers season ended with Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks, 107-101

The Cleveland Cavaliers season ended with Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks, 107-101

The Cleveland Cavaliers season ended with Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks, 107-101

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Cavaliers season is over. Trae Young concluded it.

Despite starting quickly, leading most of the game and being 14 points ahead, the Cavaliers lost to the Atlanta Hawks in their final game Friday night, 107-101. The Hawks will be the eighth seeded in the Eastern Conference, taking on Miami in the opening round of the playoffs which begins on Sunday.

The Cavs wonder what it could have been.

It once looked like this was going to be Cleveland’s dream season: the first playoff appearance without LeBron James since 1998. Just about two months ago, the Cavs were close to the top of the conference, speaking of high expectations. But the Cavs couldn’t finish.

Not this season. Not Friday night. Once again in the draft lottery (the Cavs will keep their first-round pick which seemed headed to Indiana as part of the deal with Caris LeVert’s expiration).

Before Friday’s game, Cleveland coaches showed players an important stat. The play-in tournament teams that won the first quarter were 8-2. It is now 8-3.

In a full 180 from Tuesday’s defeat to Brooklyn, the Cavs blew up early. Fueled by Jarrett Allen’s brave return from a fractured middle finger in his left hand, Cleveland was up by nine points in the first four minutes. That lead quickly shot up to 14. The Cavs were leading by 11 by the end of the quarter. At the end of the first half the lead was 10.

Twenty-four minutes from a seat in the playoffs. All they had to do was get closer. Instead, it was his 18th defeat this season when he was leading by 10 or more points. In the larger game, the most troubling issue again showed up.

Kept in check for the first half, scoring just six points, Young exploded to 16 in the third quarter. He scored the last 12 in Atlanta, leading the Hawks to 84 heads in the fourth, where they won the decisive quarter, 23-17. Cleveland’s attack lost its flow and seemed to crumble under the weight of the pressure of the fourth quarter, similar to that of the playoffs.

“I think more than anything else our attack slowed down,” Cavs manager JB Bickerstaff said after the defeat. “We weren’t moving that much. There was a lot of isolation and standing still and that gave them the opportunity to move on. It’s something we’ll go back and study and make sure we keep finding ways to improve over the summer. “

Young finished with a record of 38 points, 32 in the second half. He has made 10 of his last 14 shots. Whenever the Cavs tried to backtrack in the fourth quarter, Young responded, punching 3 long-range, beating more defenders from the dribble, knocking down runners, or flipping in layups.

“He hit a few shots from the jumping hoop,” Bickerstaff said.

Bogdan Bogdanovic entered the field with 19 points off the bench. Danilo Gallinari added 14. Kevin Huerter scored 13.

Atlanta, who progressed to the conference finals last season and used that experience to their advantage, played the entire second half without starting center Clint Capela. The big active man hyperextended his right knee at the end of the second quarter, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds.

The Cavs were led by Lauri Markkanen. The sniper scored 26 points, going 6 out of 12 by 3 points. All-Star point guard Darius Garland, haunted by the Hawks defense all the time, finished with 21 points and nine assists, but also shot just 9 of 27 and committed five turnovers.

“He has meant so much to us, he has grown up so much, he has separated from the pack and he needs to move on. Right now, it doesn’t define it, “Bickerstaff said of Garland.” What I know this moment will do is motivate it. I know what its work ethic is and I know what it will look like over the summer and come back even better this year. next one”.

Potential Rookie of the Year prodigy Evan Mobley capped off his brilliant maiden voyage, scoring 18 points at the end with eight rebounds and five assists.

Allen, who missed 19 consecutive games due to a finger injury, played 36 minutes, scoring 11 points and making all four of his shot attempts.

I think we’re still working it out, ”Allen said. “A lot of the guys in the locker room are still sitting in chairs, and we’re still like, damn, it’s really over. And then two seconds later, and it’s like we’re laughing because we’ve had a hell of a year. A lot of good, bad things have happened this year, but let’s look at all the times we played well and got together. And it was all positive ”.

After winning just 22 games last season and 19 each in the previous two, the Cavs should have gone back to being a doormat. But a mix of talent and understanding allowed them to turn into one of the great surprises of the championship. They concluded with a record of victories. They increased their win total by 22 games, the second biggest improvement in franchise history. They have moved on to the play-in tournament, gaining valuable know-how that should help them take the next step.

Even though the future looks bright, Friday continues to burn, in part because injuries have deprived them of the ability to complete the turnaround.

“Think about all that stuff,” Bickerstaff said. “You go back to the start, losing Collin (Sexton), losing Ricky (Rubio). Think about what we are when we are whole and what position we are in. When you’re in season, you’re just trying to find a way to get through it and move on to the next game. When you have a moment, even if you are watching the movie of a team that you played at the beginning of the year and you see that team, it is, you think about it.

“But I’m going to give our guys so much credit, no matter what happened, no matter what got thrown in their way, they figured out a way to go out and jump and put themselves in the position we were in tonight. We talked about it before, but you need these moments of disappointment. All successful teams have had a moment of disappointment at some point that pushed individuals and teams to improve and I expect this to be that moment. “

Shortly after the final siren, Young, who was grossly harassed all night, slammed the ball to the ground. He then waved at the rowdy crowd heading for the exits. So cold.

“I mean, he deserves the nickname for a reason: Ice Trae,” Allen said. “He went out there, he made some crazy shots. Looks like he scored eight 3s in the game, nine 3. But I’m looking at the stats sheet, it’s only four o’clock. Whenever he needed to hit the shot right now, he did it. He was pulling from the logo over there and it’s hard to protect. He showed why he is one of the best in the NBA. “

Living up to his clever nickname, Young has put Cleveland’s playoff hopes on the ice until next season.

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