Cavs start slow, finish strong but fall in Brooklyn

The Cleveland Cavaliers were hoping to punch their ticket to the NBA Playoffs when they battled the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center Tuesday night in the Play-In Tournament.

Cleveland never led and trailed by 20 points after the first quarter and was down by as many as 22. The Cavs battled back and cut the lead to five late in the game; however, they could not get any closer as the Nets defeated Cleveland 115-108. 

Kyrie Irving had 34 points(12/15 FG, 3/6 3-PT FG) and 12 assists; Irving made his first 12 shots; Kevin Durant added 25 points, five rebounds, 11 assists, and three blocks.

The Nets get the seventh seed in the East and will battle the second seed, the Boston Celtics. The Cavs will try to get the eighth seed Friday night against the winner of Hornets/Hawks.

Here is the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Nets:

The Great for the Cavs:

Darius Garland scored 16 of his 34 points in the fourth. Garland scored the first nine points for Cleveland in the final quarter, and he tried to rescue the Cavs. 

The moment was not too big for him, and the moment has not been too big for him all season long. This is what you want from your best player in a big spot. The All-Star also added five assists and two steals. 

-The moment wasn’t too big for rookie Evan Mobley as well. He had 14 of his 19 points in the second half to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Mobley has been steady all season long, and he was steady Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

-Rajon Rondo morphed into “Playoff Rondo” against the Nets. He made the right play time after time. The stat line wasn’t super impressive as Rondo had seven points and nine assists in 26 minutes of action, but he got it done for the Cavs. Rondo and Caris LeVert were the only two Cavs with a positive rating(+2), and Rondo had the best rating in the second half for Cleveland at +9. 

Any Quarter but the First: Cleveland trailed by 20 after the first quarter, but they outscored Brooklyn by 13 points in the final three quarters. They held Brooklyn to 17 points in the second quarter. After shooting 35% in the first half, Cleveland shot 55% from the field, including 50% from deep in the second half. They scored 35 points in the fourth quarter on 55% shooting, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

First Quarter: Last Friday, the Cavaliers trailed Brooklyn 34-19 after one quarter, and Tuesday night, the Nets got off to another great start. Brooklyn shot 71% from the floor, including 67% from downtown. Kyrie Irving was 5/5 from the field and scored 11 points in the first quarter; he finished with 20 points in the first half on 9/9 shooting.

The Nets led 40-20 after one quarter and 57-43 at halftime.

Turnovers: Cleveland had 15 turnovers, which led to 24 points for Brooklyn. 

-Isaac Okoro: The second-year guard struggled with his shot Tuesday night. He was 0/3 from the field, all threes, and finished with zero points in 13 minutes. No one expects Okoro to score a bunch, but he had open looks, and he has to make some of those open shots.

Bottom Line:

You can’t spot Brooklyn 20 points and expect to win. Cleveland played well after the first quarter, but they were swimming upstream just like last Friday’s game.

Brooklyn could win a championship, so there is no shame in losing this game. Cleveland has two games to win one. Hopefully, they can get back their All-Star center Jarrett Allen. Cleveland is 35-21 with Allen this season and 9-17 without him, so getting him back would help.

Getting to the playoffs won’t be easy; it should be fun to see the excitement at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Friday night.

What’s Next:

The Cavs return home to battle the winner of Hornets/Hawks in the Play-In Game.

Best of the Rest:

-Kevin Love had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds; Lauri Markkanen chipped in with 13 points, and LeVert had 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.  

-Bruce Brown had 18 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, and three steals; Andre Drummond chipped in with 16 points and eight rebounds, and Nic Claxton had 13 points and nine rebounds.

Listen below as Garland and Love discuss the team’s loss to Brooklyn:

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