Final score: Cleveland Cavaliers 108, Houston Rockets 91. Here are some takeaways from Sunday night in Cleveland.
Playoffs locked in
With the win, the Cavs are guaranteed a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their official seeding is still to-be-determined (although it’s likely going to be the fourth seed), but the playoffs are guaranteed.
That’s the bare minimum step forward the Cavs needed to take this year. Having made the play-in last year before losing, getting to the playoffs was the next step. (And, barring injuries, they likely would have made the playoffs outright last year anyway.) When you acquire Donovan Mitchell in the summer, making the playoffs was a must.
We’ll see what comes next. We’ll see who the Cavs get in the playoffs and how far they can go. But they are going to the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 season. It’s the first time they’ve made the playoffs without LeBron James since the 1997-98 season. It matters.
Evan Mobley, being awesome
Wire-to-wire, Mobley was Cleveland’s best player on Sunday. He popped as a passer, throwing a few looks to Jarrett Allen and others en route to 5 assists.
That big man connection. #LetEmKnow@evanmobley @_bigjayy_ pic.twitter.com/hQYcEOkgoR— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 26, 2023
The effort, as it always is, was there. The play of the night was easily Mobley pulling down three offensive rebounds in one possession and, on the third one, crushing home a dunk past two Rockets.
EVAN. MOBLEY. #LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/Pi26J0GLTT— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 26, 2023
Interestingly, Mobley spent chunks of this game getting to try stuff out. He had a one-legged post fadeaway in this game. He also drove full court and finished with his off hand across the body of the defender.
The playoffs are coming, so Mobley isn’t get to do as much of this once the stakes go up. But he’s getting to experiment now, flashing high-end two-way play almost every night. Maybe it sets the stage for some of this to carry over into the playoffs.
Jarrett Allen’s fourth quarter helped seal the win
The two-way effort Allen played with to open the fourth — when the Rockets were still hanging around and making the game interesting — might have sealed the game. In the fourth, he had 8 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 10 minutes. His block of Tari Eason was the emphatic play of the fourth. It restored order.
De. Nied. Denied. #LetEmKnow pic.twitter.com/z6beeP3ffw— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) March 26, 2023
It’s good for Cleveland to have him back.
Isaac Okoro injury update
Okoro left the game with what the team said was left knee soreness. Postgame, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that Okoro has been “battling through it, but tonight it started acting up.”
“We just wanted to do the smart thing and protect him,” Bickerstaff said.
Up next: The Cavs next play on Tuesday when they travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.