The Cleveland Cavaliers took care of what they could on Tuesday night, beating the Atlanta Hawks 128-105 at home. It was a win they needed to keep in-season tournament hopes alive, but ultimately a win that won’t help them get to Las Vegas for the next stage of the tournament.
Donovan Mitchell led Cleveland with 40 points on 14-25 shooting, including a 9-9 mark from the line. Darius Garland added 19 points and 8 assists, while Evan Mobley put forth a 17-point, 19-rebound game, 7-block game.
Well... that happened
Garland got the better of Trae Young in this game.
Defensively, Garland more than did his job against Young. Young still had a few moments of brilliance — he’s too skilled to be fully taken out of a game — but Garland (and everyone else who defended Young) kept up with him and denied him open space. Young finished with 13 points and 3-15 shooting (including a 2-8 mark from three) and 10 assists.
Offensively, Garland was as expected. He had 19 points and 8 assists vs. two turnovers. He had multiple key makes, some up at the rim and a few from three. This was a complete two-way Garland performance against an elite player at his position.
Cleveland’s defense was also on-point in this game. Atlanta’s offense came into this game third in offensive rating, per Cleaning The Glass, scoring 121.2 points per 100 possessions. The Cavs held their offense to an offensive rating of 100. The Hawks finished shooting 34.7% from the field and 29.5% from three. This was an elite defensive performance from the Cavs against an elite offensive team, full-stop.
The Cavs will not be going to Las Vegas, which takes away from the night slightly. Cleveland certainly went for it in keeping Mitchell, Garland, Mobley, Max Strus, and Caris LeVert in late when the game was decided and the Hawks pulled their key players. To come up short after that effort is a disappointment.
But in the broader scope of the 2023-24 season, this is a good win for the Cavs. They overcame adversity in being down 10 in the first half, put forth a great defensive performance, and beat a team they are likely competing for seeding within the Eastern Conference. So even with Cleveland’s in-season tournament hopes dashed, this was a good night in the office.
Up next: The Cavs host the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. When the Cavs played at Portland on Nov. 15, they won 109-95.