CLEVELAND, OH – April 15, 2022, is the date the Cleveland Cavaliers remember vividly.
Six months after Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks ended Cleveland’s dream season at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavs managed to pull off a little redemption with a 114-102 victory Monday night.
The Cavs have gotten over losing this game cycle all summer long. They used it as fuel, believing there was more they should have accomplished. He might have accomplished had it not been for a pile of late-season injuries and an explosion of play in Young that turned him into Cleveland’s newest villain. This is why the Cavs went into this season with an “unfinished business” mentality.
The ties between the two rivals in the Eastern Conference don’t end there either. Both have supplied their backcourt with off-season trades that have changed the course, raising expectations and sparking debates about who is the best. Both entered Monday’s match with 10 wins, and are fighting for the top spot in the standings.
The first round this year went to Cleveland – and its star-studded backyard.
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Donovan Mitchell, who was acquired from Utah about two months after the Hawks added DeJonte Murray, scored 29 points on 11-of-22 from the field and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. He also grabbed nine assists and four rebounds in 39 minutes.
“We were very precise in our movements. We knew exactly where we were going, how we were going to attack what they were doing,” Mitchell said. the whole match. This is all just a learning process about what will continue to work. There were nights where it didn’t work out, and I think that’s what helped us get to this point.”
Cavs’ Darius Garland added 26 points on 9 of 14 shooting and 2 of 4 from outside the arc to go with nine assists for eight turnovers in 38 minutes.
The Cleveland duo significantly outperformed Atlanta all night. Garland and Mitchell combined for 55 points and 18 assists.
Young (25 points and 10 assists) and Murray (11 and 6 on only 4-of-18 shooting) scored 35 points and 16 assists together.
Brilliant off the bench for the second night in a row, Sidi Othmane scored a season-high 23 points, going 8-of-10 from the field. The Cavs’ short bench, even without Caris LeVert and Kevin Love with a hairline fracture on his right thumb, ended with a 33-29 lead.
“The confidence is just building,” Garland said of Usman’s two-game stretch. “He’s got that time and he’s just making the most of it. He’s making the most of his minutes. He’s very effective on the ground. He’s competitive on both ends. He’s something we need, as an ignition source. We’re happy he’s in a good place now and we just want him to stay there and be there.” It brings us this energy every night.”
Othman was one of the players who referred to Monday as a “special game” several times over the course of the run. He wasn’t the only one publicly honest about what the game meant, with a few players admitting to having a strong desire for revenge — as much as possible in a November regular season game anyway. Others discussed it privately.
Monday is important. Cleveland’s early focus, energy, urgency and intensity spoke volumes. The Cavs led by 12 at the end of the first quarter. They were up by five in the first half. Despite a turnover-filled third quarter, they were still up by three going into the third quarter.
This time, the Cavs are finished.
They outscored Atlanta 29-20 in the decisive fourth, using a late 11-2 rally to push their lead to a game-high 15 points and get their first bit of revenge.
“The flexibility and the will to discover that, I think we did all night,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said. “The most important thing is the last five minutes. I think there was a big step forward there and I hope it generates that confidence and an understanding of how to do it. We’re going to test again. We have to keep going through those tests.”
LeVert did not play due to an ankle injury he suffered one night earlier against Miami. LeVert, who told cleveland.com he was “straight up” and unconcerned with injury in the locker room before Monday’s game, was not on crutches or in walking shoes. He was wearing his usual basketball shoes and showed no visible signs of a limp.
“We’ll just see how it goes and how he recovers,” Bickerstaff said of Levert. “These are all good signs.”
The Cavs will wrap up their four-game home run with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Tipoff is set to 7 p.m
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