Cleveland Cavaliers is back in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2018, while the situation for the Atlanta Hawks keeps getting more complicated.
Atlanta and Cleveland will complete their three-game season series on Tuesday at Atlanta.
The Cavaliers (48-28) are No. 4 in the Eastern Conference and clinched their spot in the playoffs with a 108-91 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Cleveland missed the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons.
The Hawks (37-38) are tied with Toronto for the eighth spot in the East, three games out sixth place with six games remaining, and appear headed for the play-in tournament for the second consecutive year.
Atlanta has alternated wins and losses for seven straight games and fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 123-119 on Sunday. Four of Atlanta’s final seven games are at home.
“We can’t look too far ahead,” Atlanta’s Trae Young said. “We’ve got to take this next one before we go back on the road. We can control it. That’s all that matters.”
Cleveland and Atlanta split the first two meetings of the season. The Cavaliers won 114-102 on Nov. 21 at Cleveland and the Hawks prevailed 136-119 on Feb. 24 at Atlanta. The Hawks have won the last four meetings in Atlanta.
Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen scored 24 points on Sunday, while Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points on Sunday.
Mitchell is trying to become the fourth player in NBA history to average 27 points, 1.5 steals and make 200-plus 3-pointers on 37 percent shooting. He would join Stephen Curry (2015-16), Paul George (2018-19) and James Harden (2014-15). Mitchell is averaging a career-high 27.4 points, 1.5 steals and is shooting 37.9 percent on 3-pointers.
Mitchell was acquired in September in a trade with Utah. In addition to his offensive skills, he also brings playoff experience. The Jazz qualified for the playoffs each of Mitchell’s five seasons with the team and he has become a vocal leader for the Cavs.
“I told the guys, this is what you should just come to expect,” Mitchell said. “You made your first one. Appreciate and enjoy it. Celebrate it for the city, for the organization, for you individual guys who have made it. We should come to a point now where that’s expected of us making the playoffs and continuously being here and continuously pushing forward.”
Atlanta has gotten stellar post play of late from Clint Capela and reserve Onyeka Okongwu. In the last two games, Capela produced 17 points and 17 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers and 18 points with 16 rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Okongwu has totaled 25 points and 13 rebounds, eight of them offensive, over that span. He has had six games with four-plus offensive rebounds over the last eight games.
“(Okongwu) has been really good, particularly on the offensive glass,” Atlanta coach Quin Snyder said. “He is impacting the game so much on the glass. He has been tenacious rebounding and, as much as anything, I like the way he competes and he’s hungry to learn.”
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