The Cleveland Cavaliers showcased their prowess on the court by defeating the Atlanta Hawks with a resounding 128-105 victory on Tuesday night. Despite finishing group play in the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament with an impressive 3-1 record and a plus-29 point differential, the Cavs were unable to secure a spot in the eight-team knockout round.
Star guard Donovan Mitchell, reflecting on the team's performance, acknowledged the disappointment of missing out on the championship but emphasized the positive aspects of their play. "We didn’t get this championship, so now the main goal is to focus on the next one and continue to build. I’m not going to sit here and be upset because at the end of the day, we won. That’s the end goal. This was a good win."
Heading into the crucial night, the Cavs faced a precarious situation in the in-season tournament. Not only did they need a victory over the Hawks, but they also required a blowout win to improve their point differential – the decisive tiebreaker for the wild card. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff, aware of the math, strategically left his starters in for the entire fourth quarter to maximize their point margin.
Despite the team's efforts, the Cavs fell short in the wild-card standings, securing the second spot behind New York. The Knicks claimed the wild card with a final point differential of 42, while the Cavs finished with a plus-six point differential.
The game against the Hawks saw a significant turnaround for the Cavaliers, fueled by Donovan Mitchell's outstanding performance. Mitchell, responding to coach Bickerstaff's prediction of a star-like explosion, delivered with 40 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists.
Cleveland's offensive strength was evident as seven players scored in double figures. Darius Garland contributed 19 points and eight assists, Evan Mobley recorded his 12th double-double, and Jarrett Allen and Max Strus reached double figures with 11 points each.
Defensively, the Cavaliers demonstrated a return to last season's form, stifling Hawks star Trae Young and limiting Atlanta to a low shooting percentage. Young managed just 13 points on 3 of 14 shooting, a testament to the team's collective defensive effort.
Despite the disappointment of missing the tournament's knockout round, the Cavaliers remain focused on building and improving. They will continue their homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night, aiming to carry the momentum from their recent victory.
In the competitive landscape of the NBA's in-season tournament, the Cavaliers may not have advanced, but their resilient performance and commitment to improvement signal a promising journey ahead.
This is Dez Barnes of Pretty Girls Love Sports, a new writer on the MTMV Sports platform. I am a retired US Army veteran, professional cheerleader, dog mom, and avid sports lover. Feel free to follow my writings as I dive into the latest sports news! You can find me on all social media channels @PGLOVESPORTS.