CLEVELAND – Trai Young scored 32 of his 38 points in the second half as the Atlanta Hawks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-101 in Friday night’s play-in to beat center Clint Capella with a knee injury and become Eastern Conference No. 1 earned. 8 playoff seeds.
Young started slowly for the second straight game, but the “ice tray”, as he likes to himself, heats up when it matters most.
The All-Star guard scored 16 points in the third quarter to rally the Hawks from a 10-point halftime deficit, and added another 16 in the fourth to eliminate the Cavs, whose inexperience showed throughout the second half.
Bogdan Bogdanovic added 19 points for Atlanta, who will play No. 1 seed Miami in the first round. Game 1 is Sunday in South Florida.
The Hawks, who had made the conference finals a year earlier, may have to go ahead without Capella. The 6-10 center extended his right knee late in the first half, had to be helped off the floor and couldn’t come back.
Laurie Markkanen scored 26 and Darius Garland 21 for the Young Cavaliers, whose unexpected season ended up shy of a playoff berth.
Cleveland hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2018, and the Cavs haven’t gone into the postseason since 1998 without LeBron James on their roster.
As if to add insult to injury, James tweeted an ice cube emoji in the closing seconds—a nod to Young—as the Hawks were ending Cleveland’s season.
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Raised by a rowdy, towel-waving crowd at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, the Cavs were in a position to advance and played well in the long stretches. However, Cleveland’s offense waned in the third quarter, and the Cavs had no answer defensively for Young.
As the final seconds closed, Young waved goodbye as the Cleveland crowd thinned and exited.
Who saluted the Cavs, who didn’t expect to reach that far after winning just 22 games last season. While he has been relegated to picking and losing the lottery since James left after a four-year run to the NBA Finals four years ago, the future in Cleveland is bright.
With the season underway, Cleveland received a huge emotional and defensive lift from the return of All-Star center Jarrett Allen, who had missed the last 19 games with a broken finger on his left hand. Allen finished with 11 points.
The Hawks were in big trouble at the end of the third quarter, when Young finally warmed up.
Ignoring some obscene chants by Cleveland fans, the shiny guard scored a pair of 3-pointers and scored Atlanta’s final 12 points in the quarter, as the Hawks made it an 84-all with a 17-8 run in the final 3:48. closed to tie. In the last 12 minutes.
Markkanen made four 3-pointers and Cleveland held on to an 11-point lead after six shots from long distance in the first 12 minutes.
Atlanta helped in some sloppy games and scored seven turnovers, four by Young.
But once he started handling the ball and hitting the shots, no one could stop him.
Tip-ins: Hawks – Danilo Gallinari added 14 points. … Young averaged 32.5 points in four games against Cleveland in the regular season. … John Collins (finger, foot) and Lou Williams (back) both sat outside. … committed to a league-low 11.9 turnovers per game during the regular season.
Cavaliers – Kevin Love played only 10 minutes – one in the second half. … Cleveland’s 22-win improvement was the second biggest improvement in club history. The 1991-92 Cavs jumped 24-games.
Cleveland Rocks: It was an extraordinary game night in Cleveland.
While the Hawks and Cavaliers tangled up with a postseason spot up for grabs, the Guardians played their first home game since changing their name next door at Progressive Field.
The doubleheader was reminiscent of 2016, when the Cavs gained the NBA title ring as Cleveland’s baseball team, called the Indians, hosted a World Series game.