The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2021-22 season is over.
With a 107-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night in a play-in game, the Cavs’ season ends just short of the playoffs. Cleveland came in to the game needing a win to become the eighth seed and play the Miami Heat in the first round.
It looks like Cleveland might get the win too, at least for two quarters. At the half, Cleveland led 61-51, buoyed by a 47.6% mark from three and largely effective defense on Hawks star guard Trae Young. He had just six points in the first half and zero in the second quarter.
Young, though, got going in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of his game-high 38 points in the third quarter and another 16 in the fourth quarter. By the end of the third, the 10-point lead the Cavs had going into the was gone with the team tied 84 all heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter, the Hawks were just a little bit better than the Cavs, executing at a higher level down the stretch to pull away for good. In the fourth, the Cavs were 5-15 from the field and 1-8 from three vs. 7-15 from the field and 2-6 from three. In comparison to Young, Cavs guard Darius Garland had four points on 2-6 shooting, including an 0-2 mark from three.
“More than anything, our offense slowed down in the the second half,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
What became Cleveland’s last chance at a comeback late ended when Lauri Markannen threw an errant pass that was picked off by Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter with 25.8 seconds to play. At the time, the Cavs were down 102-99 — still a one possession game — and, before the pass, had the ball. But after Huerter’s steal, he was able to pass to Young, who hit two free throws that made it a five-point game with 23.8 seconds to go.
Garland finished with the game with 21 points on 9-27 shooting and 9 assists. Jarrett Allen, returning after a month-plus away with a broken finger, had 11 points and 3 rebounds in 36 minutes. Evan Mobley finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in the final game of his rookie season.
“This is where you learn,” Bickerstaff said.
With the loss, the Cavs finish the year on a two-game losing streak, both in play-in games where a win would have sent them to the playoffs. Next up is the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery, scheduled for May 17.