Cleveland Cavaliers in play-in limbo following crucial loss
The Cleveland Cavaliers continue freefalling late in the tail-end of the regular season after surrendering a costly 118-107 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. The Cavs blew a golden opportunity to secure critical homecourt advantage in the play-in game, which could turn out to be a rematch with the same Nets team.
Losers of three consecutive games, Cleveland is no longer even guaranteed a seat in the 7-8 game, with their fate yet to be determined until the final day of the regular season, when all four Eastern Conference play-in teams compete for the final seeding.
Trailing for nearly the entirety of the first half, the Cavaliers raced back to take the lead late in the third period, but a run sparked by the Nets’ Kevin Durant and Patty Mills stole the advantage back for good to allow Brooklyn to overtake Cleveland in the standings.
Darius Garland led the Cavs with 31 points but had an uncharacteristic output of only three assists in the loss. Rookie Evan Mobley added 17 points in his first game back from a sprained ankle, while frontcourt partner Lauri Markkanen matched his scoring tally.
Winning their final game becomes paramount for the Cavs
Despite the return of the team’s rising star and NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Mobley, Cleveland continued to smart from missing their primary defensive anchor in All-Star center Jarrett Allen.
What used to be one of the most potent defensive teams in the East earlier in the season kept regressing on that end of the floor and has now allowed opponents to topple the century scoring mark in 20 out of the 23 games played since after All-Star Weekend. They have only won eight times during that stretch.
Now just one full game ahead of both the Atlanta Hawks and the Charlotte Hornets, winning their final assignment against the Milwaukee Bucks would be the only way to avoid sliding further down to the 9-10 range, where teams would need to win two knockout games just to advance to the playoffs.
The 43-38 Cleveland Cavaliers will host the regular-season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 10 in a game that will certainly have huge postseason ramifications.