The young Cavaliers certainly have nothing to hang their heads about after Tuesday night’s Play-In Game against Brooklyn.
A slow start proved to be the Wine & Gold’s downfall – falling behind by 20 after one quarter – but J.B. Bickerstaff’s young squad made the heavyweight Nets sweat it out from there, mounting a furious comeback that got them to within five late in the fourth before finally dropping the 115-108 decision at Barclays Center.
With the loss, the Cavaliers will take on the winner of the Eastern Conference’s 9-10 Play-In Game between Charlotte and Atlanta, with the winner coming to Cleveland for a Friday night matchup that’ll send one team to the First Round against Miami.
Kyrie Irving hit his first 12 shots of the night and Kevin Durant was his dynamic self on Tuesday – with the pair combining for 59 points and 23 assists.
But the Cavaliers had an All-Star up their sleeve as well, with Darius Garland forcing the action all night, and especially late – netting Cleveland’s first nine points of the fourth quarter, finishing with 16 points in the period and a game-high-tying 34 on the night.
The Nets began that fourth quarter up a dozen, 85-73, but the Cavaliers just kept coming – and every time Brooklyn bumped its lead to double-digits, Cleveland continued to counterpunch. The Wine & Gold got to within five twice in the game’s final minute, but Durant and Irving were perfect in six trips to the line to ice the affair.
Kevin Love was rock-solid off the bench on Tuesday, doubling-up with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, going 5-of-11 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from deep.
Evan Mobley, playing in his first postseason outing, looked typically unfazed by the moment – with the rookie star notching 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, adding seven boards, a pair of assists and the Cavaliers only two blocked shots.
Lauri Markkanen, also making his postseason debut, and Caris LeVert were the only other Cavaliers in double-figures – although both struggled from the floor on Tuesday. Markkanen finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting; LeVert, 12 points on 4-of-12. LeVert did play a solid floor game, however, pitching in with seven boards, seven assists and three steals.
Rajon Rondo came off Cleveland’s bench to hand out a team-best nine assists, adding seven points and three boards in 26 minutes of work off the bench.
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