Cavs’ Altman on team: ‘They captivated the city and put the league on notice’

On Tuesday, Cleveland Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman addressed the media at Cleveland Clinic Courts. The Cavs’ season ended at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Friday night as they fell to the Hawks in the Play-In Tournament.

“I’m still a little heartsick, to be honest with you,” Altman said about not making the playoffs. “It’s hard to process the season ending the way it did.”

J.B. Bickerstaff helped Cleveland improve by 22 wins from a year ago and finished the season 44-38, but despite the success, they fell short of the playoffs.

However, according to Atman, the Cavs have caught the attention of teams around the league.

“They captivated the city and put the league on notice, forced the league to put us on a national TV game because they had to, and more of that will come.”

Altman felt this season was a success, but Cleveland does have some questions, and one of the biggest questions is what will happen with Collin Sexton, who missed 71 games with a torn meniscus and can become a restricted free agent at season’s end if the Cavs extend a qualifying offer of $7.2 million.

The 23-year-old Sexton will probably be back in Cleveland next season based on what Altman said today.

“He, in a lot of ways, was the start of not only the rebuild, but the culture that we have in place now,” Altman said. “He’s enormously important to us. He’s been enormously important to us. To lose him, you can see throughout the year why we missed him, how we missed him, so we owe Collin a great deal of gratitude for the work he’s put in and continues to put in, (he) an important part of this team.”

Caris LeVert came over from the Pacers in a trade back in February. Altman believes both LeVert and Sexton, who have a similar skillset and play the same position, can thrive together in Cleveland.

“Yes, there’s a place for that level of talent, especially with the character that they bring and the fact that both really love it here,” Altman said.

It’s one thing to be a surprise team, but it’s another thing to win when the expectations are high, so the challenge for Altman and the players is to be even better next season.

“We’re not going to surprise teams next year,” Altman said. “I think we were two games out of being in sixth place. So like, it’s that close. We don’t want to lose grasp of what got us here, which is the hard work in the summer. We haven’t accomplished anything yet, so how do we keep that hunger, that humbleness, and attack this offseason?”

From top to bottom, the Eastern Conference will be tough next season, and Cleveland could be better next season and still be fighting to make the playoffs. They have a young, talented core.Obviously, they have three guys they can build around in All-Stars, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley.

In addition, they will have a lottery pick, so the future is very bright. However, sometimes that next step is the hardest step, and the Cavs are hoping to take that next step next season.

Cavs’ season was a huge success, but a massive disappointment at the same time

After falling to the Nets Tuesday night in Brooklyn in the Play-In Tournament, the Cavs had one more chance to get into the playoffs when they hosted the Atlanta Hawks Friday night.

It’s win or go home!

The Cavs got All-Star center Jarrett Allen back after he missed 19 games(including Play-In Tournament) with a fractured finger. Cleveland had their largest lead of 14 points in the first half and led by 10 at the half. However, Trae Young happened! The All-Star had 32 of his 38 points in the second half as the Hawks defeated the Cavs 107-101 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Cavs season ends, while the Hawks capture the eighth seed and move on to face the Heat in first round of the playoffs, which begins Sunday in Miami. 

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Hawks:

The Great for the Cavs:

-Lauri Markkanen played like he did not want to go home. He had 17 of his team-high 26 points in the first half to along with eight rebounds. Markkanen shot 10/17 from the field, including 6/12 from deep. Unfortunately, he did have a bad pass that was stolen by Kevin Huerter late in the fourth, which sealed the deal for the Hawks, but all and all, Markkanen did his job Friday night.

-Evan Mobley will be a special player, and he played well against the Hawks. The rookie had 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Just like Tuesday night in Brooklyn, the moment was not too big for Mobley.

-Darius Garland struggled with his shot(9/27 FG), but he battled through it and finished with 21 points, nine assists, and three steals; however,  he did turn the ball over five times.

First Half:  The Cavs fed off their crowd in the first half. Cleveland shot 52% from the floor in the first quarter, including 67%(6/9) from deep. The Cavs led 36-25 after one. Cleveland made 10 threes in the first half and got great looks. In addition, they held the Hawks to 17%(3/17) from three-point range, and Cleveland led 61-51 at the break. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: Great players do great things, and Young is a great player. Young woke up after being held to six points in the first half. He either scored or assisted on 27 of the Hawks’ 33 points in the quarter. He finished with 16 points in the third. Atlanta shot 61% from the floor(4/8 3-PT FG). The Hawks outscored the Cavs 33-23 in the quarter, took their first lead late in the third, and erased a 10-point halftime deficit. The game was knotted at 84, heading into the fourth.

Second Half Offense: The offense stagnated in the second half, and some credit has to go to Atlanta’s defense, which stiffened. Cleveland did not get the same looks they had in the first half. You often saw some 911 shots with the shot clock running down from the Cavs, and they had two shot-clock violations early in the fourth. After scoring 61 points in the first, Cleveland was held to 40 points in the second half. In the fourth, they shot only 33% from the field, including 1/8 from downtown. After making 10 threes in the first half, the Cavs made only three more the rest of the way.

Bench: The Hawks’ bench outscored Cleveland’s bench 25-9. Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo were not much of a factor in this contest. Maybe Love could have gotten more minutes, but Atlanta was trying to go after him on the defensive end. The Cavs’ starters were a combined +10, while the bench was a combined -40.

Bottom Line:

It’s kind of stunning how the season ended for Cleveland. At one point, especially after the addition of Caris LeVert, many thought this team could make a deep playoff run. Now, just like that, it’s over!

The season was a success. Players like Garland and Jarrett Allen grew and became All-Stars, and Evan Mobley looks like a star. LeVert will have a whole training camp to get acclimated with the team, and maybe they’ll bring back soon-to-be restricted free agent Collin Sexton or move him to get another piece. In addition, they will have a lottery pick, so that’s another opportunity to improve this roster. Youth is on their side as Garland, Allen, Mobley, and Markkanen are all under 25.

Even in saying the season was a success, it feels like a disappointment at the same time. They were in striking distance of the top spot in the East for most of the season, but the day that destroyed the season was March 6. Cleveland defeated Toronto in that game and was 37-27 and was the sixth seed in the East with a three-game lead over the seventh-seeded Raptors. However, Allen fractured his finger and missed the final 18 games of the regular season. During that stretch, the Cavs went 7-11. Also, during that stretch, Mobley went down with an ankle injury and missed five games. They overcame the injuries of Sexton and Ricky Rubio, but they did not overcome Allen’s injury.

Again, a fantastic season for the Cavs, and the future seems bright. However, from top to bottom, the East will be challenging, and here’s also the thing: Cleveland is not sneaking up on anyone, so expectations have changed, which means the pressure is on this young group to get better. We’ll see how they’ll respond next season.

What’s Next:

The offseason! It was a fun season!

Best of the Rest:

-LeVert had 16 points for the Cavs as all five starters scored in double figures. Allen, who was basically playing with one hand, had 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, and a block.

-Bogdan Bogdanovic had 19 points for the Hawks off the bench. 

-During the second quarter, Clint Capela suffered a right knee hyperextension after fouling Mobley. According to the team. he will undergo an MRI in Miami, and his status will be updated as appropriate.

Watch below as Garland and Mobley react to the loss to Atlanta:

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:

Cavs fight but fall short in Brooklyn

The Cleveland Cavaliers had a big one Friday night in Brooklyn against the Nets. The winner of this game would have possession of the seventh seed in the East.

Brooklyn led by as many as 17 points, but Cleveland did take their first lead in the third. However, Brooklyn dominated the fourth and defeated the Cavs 118-107 at Barclays Center.

Kevin Durant had a game-high 36 points; Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown added 18 points apiece; Brown also added 10 rebounds. All five of Brooklyn’s starters scored in double figures.

Cleveland(43-38) has now lost three straight and dropped to eighth in the East, while the Nets(43-38) have won three straight. Brooklyn won the season series(3-1) over the Cavs, which means they are the seventh seed.

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

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland played like a superstar against Brooklyn. He shot 12/24 from the field, including three threes, and finished with 31 points in 41 minutes of action. The All-Star scored 21 of those 31 points in the second and third quarters. He probably should have played the whole second half, but we’ll get to that later.

-Evan Mobley was back after missing five games with a sprained ankle, and he picked up where he left off. The rookie had 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. He also became the eighth Cavs rookie to go over 1000 points in a season. Mobley plays winning basketball, and everything he does contributes to winning.

-Lamar Stevens did not fill up the box score as he only had two points on 1/5 shooting from the field to go along with two rebounds, but he did defend his butt off in the third quarter when the Cavs were making their run. Kevin Durant still got his points; however, late in the third, he forced two Durant turnovers. It wasn’t enough, but give Stevens credit.

Second and Third Quarters: Cleveland trailed 34-19 after the first quarter and looked dead in the water. However, in the second quarter, things got better. Garland had 10 points in the quarter; Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 35-28 and trailed 62-54 at the break.

In the third, things got even better for the Cavs. Brooklyn led 70-60 with just under ten minutes left in the quarter, but Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 28-13 the rest of the third and led by as many as seven. Garland again was big time as he had 11 points in the quarter. The Cavs outscored Brooklyn 34-21 in the third and took an 88-83 lead into the fourth.

Cleveland outscored Brooklyn 69-49 in the second and third quarters.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

First Quarter: Cleveland did not get the start they wanted. Brooklyn shot 57% from the field, including 4/8 from deep. On the other hand, Cleveland shot 40% from the floor, including 0/7 from downtown. The Cavs had issues stopping Durant, who had 16 points in the quarter. Brooklyn took their largest lead of the game at 34-17 and led 34-19 after one. 

Second Chance Points: Brooklyn is a great offensive team. They are tough to stop, but they become even harder to control when you give them second and third chances. The Nets outrebounded the Cavs 45-31, and Brooklyn had 25-second chance points Friday night, which is a lot. Rebounding is a big part of defense, and Cleveland had difficulty closing the possessions with a rebound. 

Fourth Quarter: Cleveland had all the momentum going into the fourth, but the Nets have firepower for days, and it’s hard to keep them from scoring. Brooklyn went on a 10-4 run to start the fourth to take the lead for good. The Nets led by as many as 15 points in the fourth. The Cavs appeared to run out of gas in the fourth as the Nets outscored them 35-19 in the quarter.

The first 3:09 of the Fourth: You hate to be critical of anybody in this one, but Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff may have made a mistake by resting Garland early in the fourth. Garland was rolling, and so was the team while he was on the court. He did play the whole second and third quarters; however, Garland did get rest at halftime and before the start of the fourth. The Cavs should have ridden its young star to the end. Brooklyn took the lead back while Garland was on the bench and never relinquished it.

Bottom Line:

Cleveland battled in this one, and they played their hearts out, but Brooklyn is Brooklyn, so winning this game would be tough. The Cavs have to start better to beat a team of Brooklyn’s caliber.

Fortunately, the eighth-seeded Cavs got a little help as the Hawks fell to the Heat, which allowed Cleveland to hold the eighth seed and keep the eighth seed if they beat the Bucks in the season finale. The Cavs can still get the seventh seed, but they need to win and Brooklyn to lose to the Pacers at home, which is highly unlikely.

So, Cleveland could be returning to Brooklyn next Tuesday for the 7-8 game in the Play-In Tournament. 

However, unfortunately, Cleveland could fall to the 10th seed if they lose to the Bucks, and Charlotte(Wizards), Atlanta(@Rockets), and Brooklyn(Pacers) win their final game, which would be disastrous.

Getting the eighth seed won’t be easy for Cleveland as the Bucks are still fighting for the second seed in the East, so Sunday’s game should be very interesting.

Remember, the seventh and eighth seeds have two games to win one, while the ninth and tenth seeded teams have to win twice to make the playoffs.

Quotes:

“I’m proud of the way they played and proud of the effort that they played with, the way they kept coming back and staying in the game,” Bickerstaff said after the game.

What’s Next:

The Cavs return home to battle the Bucks in the regular-season finale.

 Best of the Rest:

-Lauri Markkanen had 17 points; Caris LeVert added 16, and Kevin Love had 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

-Andre Drummond had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds for Brooklyn.

-Cavs shot 8/27 from three-point range.

Listen below as the Garland and Drummond react to loss to Brooklyn:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to Magic: ‘We didn’t show the fight that we needed to show’

The Cleveland Cavaliers went into Orlando to battle the Magic Tuesday night. Coming into this game, Cleveland still had an outside shot of being one of the top six teams in the East.

The Cavs trailed by 10 in the fourth but made a furious rally and had a chance to tie, but Lauri Markkanen missed a three with 48.8 seconds to go, and the Magic defeated the Cavs 120-115 at Amway Center.

Mo Bamba led the way for the Magic with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks; Orlando had eight players in double figures.

Cleveland(43-37) is now locked into the Play-In Tournament and has last two straight and seven of their last nine, while the Magic(21-59) snapped a six-game losing streak.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Magic.

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland had game-highs of 27 points and 10 assists, to go along with six rebounds and two steals.

-Lauri Markkanen added 25 points, including a season-high-tying six threes. He also added two blocks.

-Kevin Love had a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, and he made a little history as he moved into 9th on Cavs’ all-time scoring list, surpassing Larry Nance Sr. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Defense: What was a strength for this team earlier in the season is now a liability. They allowed the Magic, who are last in points per game, to score 120 points on 51% shooting from the floor, including 46%(16-35) from deep. Unacceptable!!

Third Quarter: After finishing the second quarter on a 7-0 run, the Cavs led 61-59 at halftime. With the game tied at 69 with just under eight minutes in the quarter, Orlando went on an 11-4 run to take their largest lead in the third quarter at 80-73. The Magic shot 52% in the quarter and outscored the Cavs 32-25 to take a 91-86 lead into the fourth.

Second Chance Points: The Cavs allowed the Magic to have success on the offensive glass. Orland had 20-second chance points Tuesday night.

Bottom Line:

If we had said at the beginning of the season that the Cavs would make the Play-In Tournament, most Cavs fans would have signed up for that. However, after the great start this team had, being in the Play-In Tournament is a disappointment.

This loss was unacceptable, inexcusable, and just downright bad! You can’t lose to the Magic when you have so much at stake. We know the Cavs are banged up, but it’s not like they lost to the Suns or Heat; they lost to the Magic.

The seventh-seeded Cavs now must try to stay at seven, so if necessary, they’ll have two home games to win one in the Play-In Tournament, but it won’t be easy.

Cleveland has to play the eighth-seeded Nets(41-38) in Brooklyn Friday night. If the Nets defeat the Knicks Wednesday night, they would be one game behind the Cavs and could tie Cleveland with a win Friday night. In addition, Brooklyn, who leads the season series 2-1, would hold the tiebreaker with a victory.

Furthermore, Cleveland finishes the season at home against the Bucks, who probably will have something to play for, so that won’t be easy.

Also, the ninth-seeded Hawks(41-38) are also 1.5 games behind the Cavs, and the Hawks, like the Nets, play Wednesday night as they host the Wizards. Atlanta won the season series from the Cavs and would hold the tiebreaker if those two teams ended up tied in the standings.

Again, this was a bad loss!!

Quotes:

“Tonight, time and time again, they outworked us,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Give them credit, but it’s disappointing. We didn’t get the job done. We didn’t show the fight that we needed to show.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland heads to Brooklyn to battle the Nets Friday night.

Best of the Rest:

-The Cavs had six players in double figures.

-Moses Brown had his third double-double in four games as he had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

-Ignas Brazdeikis had 20 points for the Magic off the bench. Every player that came off Orlando’s bench scored in double figures.

Bickerstaff fined $15,000 for criticizing officiating after loss to 76ers

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff was fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, the league announced Monday night. 

After the Cavs fell to the 76ers 112-108 Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Bickerstaff was unhappy about Joel Embiid and James Harden combining for 32 of the team’s 42 free throw attempts.

“That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said after the game. “We deserved to win it.”

With the 76ers holding a 107-106 lead, Darius Garland’s floater was blocked by Embiid with 15.2 seconds left in the game. Bickerstaff thought Garland was fouled on his drive to the basket. 

“Darius was fouled,” Bickerstaff said. “He did his job and got to a spot and got fouled. No whistle.”

According to the NBA’s Last Two-Minute Report, Bickerstaff was right.

The league said the following:

“While defending his drive to the basket and shot attempt, Embiid (PHI) reaches across Garland (CLE) and makes contact to his left arm.”

Cleveland(43-36) returns to action Tuesday night as they travel to Orlando to face the Magic(20-59).

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on loss to 76ers: ‘That game was taken from us’

This season, the Cavaliers have not been able to solve the riddle that is the Philadelphia 76ers. In the first three meetings between these two teams, Cleveland was 0-3.

The Cavs had one final chance to defeat the 76ers Sunday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. However, just like the previous three meetings, they could not get it done. Joel Embiid had 44 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks, and James Harden recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists as the 76ers defeated the Cavs 112-108 to sweep the season=series.

Cleveland(43-36) has now lost six of eight; the 76ers(48-30) have won two straight and clinched a playoff berth with the win.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the 76ers:

The Great for the Cavs:

-Darius Garland led the Cavs with a team-high 23 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Garland recorded his 40th 20-plus point game this season. Interestingly enough, the All-Star scored 20-plus points 26 times in the first two seasons of his career. Garland is truly having a special season.

-Lamar Stevens has found his groove, and he continues to be a key contributor on both ends of the court. Stevens had 18 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three blocks. Great effort from Stevens!

-Caris LeVert is looking more and more comfortable each game, and he had 18 points, three rebounds, and seven assists. Obviously, Cleveland will need LeVert’s ability to get to the basket and score in the playoffs, which he did Sunday night.

Second Quarter:  Cleveland led 23-21 after the first quarter. The Cavs started the second quarter on a 14-4 run to take their largest lead of the game at 37-25. They shot 55% from the field, including 67% from three-point range. Stevens led the way with seven points in the quarter. Ultimately, the Cavs led 55-49 at halftime.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: The Cavs had some momentum coming into the third, but Embiid(14 points) and Tyrese Maxey(eight points) started attacking and combined for 22 of Philly’s 32 points in the quarter. The 76ers also picked things up defensively as the Cavs shot 36% from the field, including 25%(2/8) from downtown. Philly, who shot 56% from the field, including 5/6 from deep, outscored Cleveland 32-25 in the quarter. The 76ers led 81-80 after three.

Rebounding: Cleveland was outrebounded 50-41 by the 76ers, and Philadelphia had 16 second-chance points. The 76ers shot only 41% from the floor, but they did a great job on the glass.

Playing defense without fouling: Embiid(17/20) and Harden(11/12) combined for 32 of the 76ers’ 42 free throw attempts. You can argue that it should go both ways, but in reality, these two just know how to create contact. Maybe you can blame the officials, who knows, but you have to find a way to defend these two without fouling. Cleveland did have 31 free throw attempts Sunday night, and while Philly did have 42 attempts, four of them came due to intentional fouls by the Cavs late in the game, so free throw disparity was not that drastic.

Late-game execution: With the 76ers holding a 107-106 lead, Darius Garland’s floater was blocked by Embiid with 15.2 seconds in the game. Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes Garland was fouled on his drive, but there was no call. 

Cleveland trailed by three with 07.2 seconds to go, but Love’s inbound pass was stolen by Matisse Thybulle, which ended in a Tobias Harris dunk that sealed the game. 

Bottom Line:

Cleveland played their heart out against Philadelphia. All four matchups between these two teams have felt like the playoffs, and while Philly swept the season series, these games were very competitive and a lot of fun. 

The Cavs have played well in their last two games, which is the most important thing at this point of the season. Hopefully, they can get Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen back for the playoffs.

With the Cavs now 2.5 games behind the Bulls and Raptors for one of the top six spots in the East, and only three games to play, Cleveland might think about resting some guys before the start of the Play-in Tournament. However, J.B. Bickerstaff did say postgame that was not the plan, which is understandable. There’s still meaningful basketball left as the Cavs want to get at least the seventh seed.

The Cavs are 1.5 games up on the eighth-seeded Hawks(41-37) and 2.5 games up on the ninth-seeded Hornets(40-38) and the tenth seed, the Nets(40-38).

Quotes:

“That game was taken from us,” Bickerstaff said. “We deserved to win it.”

What’s Next:

Cleveland goes to Orlando to play the Magic Tuesday night.

Best of the Rest:

-Lauri Markkanen had 16 points, including four threes and seven rebounds. Kevin Love added 12 points off the bench.

-Rajon Rondo returned after missing 11 games with an ankle injury. He had six points in 14 minutes of action.

-Maxey and Harris had 11 points apiece for the 76ers.

-According to StatMuse, Embiid joins Shaquille O’Neal, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and Patrick Ewing as the only players with multiple 40-point/15 rebound/5 block games since 1990.

Listen below as Bickerstaff talks loss to Cavs and more:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff: ‘We’re a tough out for anybody’

The Cavs have had a lot of success at Madison Square Garden in recent years. Coming into Saturday’s showdown in New York against the Knicks, Cleveland was 12-2 in their last 14 games at MSG.

Cleveland’s dominance in NYC continued. They led from start to finish and defeated the Knicks 119-101. The Cavs(3-0) swept the season series with the win.

The Cavs(43-35), who had seven players in double figures, including all five starters, snap a two-game losing streak, while the Knicks(34-44) have lost two straight.

The Great for the Cavs:

Double-Double DG: Darius Garland had 11 double-doubles in the month of March, and he kept up his double-double ways in April as he had 24 points, including five threes and 13 assists against the Knicks. According to StatMuse, it’s his third game with 20-plus points, 10-plus assists, and five-plus threes this season, which ties Mark Price for the most in team history.

-Moses Brown recorded a double-double for the second consecutive game as he had 16 points and 13 rebounds. In his last three starts, Brown is averaging 14.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per contest. You gotta love his activity around the basket, which was rewarded as he won the “Junkyard Dog” award.

-Caris LeVert had 19 points, including three threes, six rebounds, and six assists Saturday. 

-Isaac Okoro was active and accurate as he had 16 points on 7/8 shooting from the floor.

-First Quarter: With just under five minutes left and the game tied at 20, Cleveland went on an 18-8 run to take their largest first-quarter lead at 38-28. Garland led the way with 10 points in the quarter. Cleveland shot 62% from the floor, including 5/5 from downtown. The Cavs led 39-30 after one, and for the fourth time this season, Cleveland scored 39-plus points in the first quarter.

-Third Quarter: The Cavs had a 68-60 halftime lead and took complete control in the third. After New York cut the lead to 76-71 with just under eight minutes in the third, Cleveland went on a 26-14 run to close the quarter and took a 102-85 lead into the fourth. The Cavs were red-hot from the field in the third as they shot 64%, including 57%(4/7) from three-point range.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

There were no issues today. Check back tomorrow night!

Bottom Line:

Cleveland responded well after getting blown out by the Hawks Thursday night. They had excellent ball movement and had great energy against the Knicks. It’s just the Knicks, who were without their leading scorer Julius Randle(knee), but a win is a win, especially when you had lost five of six coming into this game.

Since being one of the top six teams in the East seems out of reach, the Cavs want to make sure they stay at the seventh spot in the East, so if necessary, they’ll have two home games in the Play-In Tournament.

Remember, seeds seven and eight have to win once in the tournament to make the playoffs, while seeds nine and ten have to win twice.

As for the standings, with four games left, the seventh-seeded Cavs are two games up on the eighth seed, the Atlanta Hawks(41-37), and three games up on the ninth-seeded Hornets(40-38) and the tenth-seeded Nets(40-38). Cleveland is two games behind the sixth seed, the Chicago Bulls(45-33), and three games behind the fifth-seeded Raptors(45-32).

Quotes:

“We’re a tough out for anybody,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about his team.

What’s Next:

Cleveland returns home Sunday night to face the Philadelphia 76ers.

Best of the Rest:

-Obi Toppin led the Knicks with a career-high 20 points; Evan Fournier added 19 points.

-Kevin Love had 15 points off the bench, and Lauri Markkanen and Cedi Osman chipped in with 10 points apiece.

-Evan Mobley(ankle) missed his third straight game.

Watch below as Kevin Love reacts to win over Knicks:

Time for the Cavs to focus on Play-In Tournament

The Cavs headed to Atlanta to battle the Hawks Thursday night in the second game of a back-to-back.

Cleveland lost to the Mavericks 120-112 Wednesday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Atlanta dominated and led from wire to wire and defeated the Cavs 131-107 at State Farm Arena.

Trae Young had a game-high 30 points and nine assists; Kevin Huerter had 23 points. The Hawks had six players in double figures.

Cedi Osman led the Cavs with 21 points off the bench.

Cleveland(42-35) dropped their second straight, while the Hawks(40-37) have won four straight and five of their last six.

Here is the Great, the Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Hawks.

The Great for the Cavs:

You lose by 24 points and trail from start to finish; there’s really nothing extraordinary, but let’s show some love to Moses Brown, who signed a two-way contract with the Cavs earlier in the day. Brown had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. 

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

EVERYTHING!!

The Cavs’ starting forwards of Caris LeVert and Lauri Markkanen combined for 17 points on 7/17 shooting from the floor. LeVert had nine points, while Markkanen had eight. They needed more from these two guys. 

Turnovers: The Cavs had 15 turnovers in their loss to Dallas, and they came back and committed 14 more turnovers Thursday night, which led to 24 points for the Hawks. 

Three-Point Shooting: Cleveland did not guard the three very well, and they could not make many threes either. The Cavs were 7/30 from three-point range. Both Dylan Windler(0/5 3-PT FG) and Kevin Love(2-7) miss five threes apiece. Conversely, the Hawks made 17 threes.

Defense: For the second consecutive night, Cleveland gave up 100 points after three quarters. Against Dallas on Wednesday night, they allowed 120 points in regulation. Thursday night, Cleveland gave up 131 points, which is unacceptable, but again, not surprising when two of your best defensive bigs(Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley) are sitting in street clothes. The Hawks shot 50% from the floor.

Third Quarter: Against the Mavs Wednesday night, the Cavs were outscored 39-22, and Thursday night versus the Hawks, their third-quarter woes continued as they were outscored 34-22 in the quarter. The Hawks shot 55% from the floor in the quarter and held the Cavs to 32% shooting from the field, including 1/3 from downtown. Atlanta led by 13 at halftime and had a 100-75 lead after three quarters. 

Bottom Line:

This was a bad performance for the Cavs, but these games happen in the NBA. Cleveland is a tired, depleted team who, at this point, is limping to the finish line. Unfortunately, they’ll have four games in five nights, so there’s no rest for the weary.

The way they’re playing right now, the Cavs may not win another game in the regular season. However, maybe this loss could wake them up.

With fives games left, they trail the fifth-seeded Bulls(45-32) by three games and the sixth-seeded Raptors(44-32) by 2 1/2 games, so that situation looks bleak.

It’s all about the Play-In Tournament for the Cavs. If they stay at the seventh or eighth seed, Cleveland would have two opportunities to win one game to make the playoffs, which is very doable, especially when you consider that they could have two home games(if necessary) in this tournament.

Currently, the seventh-seeded Cavs have a two-game lead over Brooklyn(40-37), Charlotte(40-37), and the Hawks(40-37), so they are in decent shape. 

At the end of the day, the Cavs just need to start playing better!

What’s Next:

Cleveland heads to New York City to battle the Knicks Saturday night.

Best of the Rest:

Earlier in the day, the Cavs announced that they had converted the contract of guard RJ Nembhard to a standard NBA contract.

The 23-year-old Nembhard has appeared in 13 games this season for the Cavaliers as well as 13 games (12 starts) with the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers’ exclusively-owned and operated NBA G League team. With the Charge, Nembhard averaged 22.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 37.7 minutes. Nembhard went undrafted in 2021 after playing four seasons at Texas Christian University.

-Darius Garland had 18 points and eight assists against the Hawks. The All-Star recorded his 171st assists in the month of March, which is a team record.

Listen below as Osman reacts to loss to Hawks:

Cavs’ Bickerstaff on Doncic: ‘He’s a wizard with the ball in his hands’

The Cleveland Cavaliers concluded their three-game homestand Thursday night against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. 

The Cavs were without Evan Mobley(sprained ankle), which is a considerable loss.

Without Mobley, Cleveland could not slow down Doncic as he had 35 points, nine rebounds, and 13 assists, and Dorian Finney-Smith(6/12 3-PT FG) had a career-high 28 points as the Mavs defeated the Cavs 120-112 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

Cleveland(42-34), who is the seventh seed in the East, is now two games behind the sixth-seeded Raptors(44-32) and the fifth seed, the Chicago Bulls(44-32).

Here is the Great, the Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Mavericks.

The Great for the Cavs:

-Caris LeVert had his best game and highest-scoring night as a Cavalier. He scored 21 of his 32 points in the first half to go along with six rebounds and four assists. LeVert looked comfortable, and he attacked from start to finish.

-Darius Garland did what he has done all month long, and that’s record a double-double. The All-Star had 25 points, 10 assists, and four steals. This was Garland’s 11th double-double in the month of March, which is a team record for points and assists double-doubles in a month.

-Moses Brown got his first start as a Cavalier against his former team, and he played well. Brown had 12 points(5/5 FG) and nine rebounds. He played with a lot of energy Monday night.

Second Quarter: The Cavs trailed 34-30 after one quarter but started fast in the second. With the game tied at 34, Cleveland went on a 16-8 run to take their largest lead of the game at 50-42. LeVert had 12 big points in the quarter. The Cavs shot 58% from the floor, including 5/6 from deep. They outscored Dallas 37-27 in the quarter and led 67-61 at halftime.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: The game shifted in the third. With the game tied at 87 with just under five minutes left in the quarter, the Mavs went on a 13-0 run to take their largest lead of 13. Cleveland had no answers for Doncic and Finney-Smith. Doncic had 20 points in the quarter(8/12 FG, 2/3 3-PT FG), and Finney-Smith had 11 points(3/5 3-PT FG). The two scored 31 of Dallas’ 39 points in the third. The Mavs shot 65% from the field, including 50%(5/10) from downtown. The game was pretty much over after the third as Dallas led 100-89 at the end of three.

Defense: The Cavs have played good defense for most of the season. However, of late, they have struggled on the defensive end. They allowed the Mavs, who are 25th in points per game, to score 120 points in regulation on 52% shooting from the floor. Without Mobley and Jarrett Allen, it makes sense that they struggled defensively Wednesday night.

Turnovers: Cleveland had 15 turnovers Wednesday night, which led to 13 points for the Mavs. Way too many turnovers when you’re trying to beat an outstanding team like Dallas.

Bottom Line:

Barring a collapse from the Bulls and Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be involved in the Play-In Tournament. Considering where they were a few weeks ago, that’s a disappointment.

However, considering all the injuries, this team has dealt with and the expectations for this team coming into the season, making the Play-In Tournament is a success for the Cavs.

The Cavs have six games left, and they will need a lot of help to be one of the top six teams in the East.

Quotes:

“He’s a wizard with the ball in his hands,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about Doncic post-game.

What’s Next:

Cleveland travels to Atlanta Thursday night to battle the Hawks. 

Best of the Rest:

Before the game, the Cavs announced that Mobley will be out at least three games, including Wednesday’s game against Dallas, with an ankle sprain after an MRI Wednesday confirmed the injury. According to the team, Mobley will now undergo a period of treatment and rehabilitation, and his return to play will be updated as appropriate. 

-Lamar Stevens scored 16 points; Stevens has been in double figures in five of the last six games. 

-For the second straight game, Cedi Osman was a DNP-CD. 

Watch below as Bickerstaff talks loss to Mavs, Doncic, and more: