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Cleveland Cavaliers take on Brooklyn Nets in Play-In Game Tuesday

The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon. By virtue of the win, the Cavs earned the #8 seed in the NBA Play-In Tournament. They will play the #7 seed Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center Tuesday night at 7pm on TNT. The Cavs are currently 8.5-point underdogs according to Caesar’s Sportsbook. Cleveland lost the head-to-head regular season series against the Nets 3-1.

For those fans who are new to the NBA Play-In Tournament, here’s how it works: The winner of Tuesday’s Nets/Cavs game will earn the #7 seed and advance to the first round of the NBA Playoffs. In which they will face-off against the #2 seed Boston Celtics. That will be a best of seven series beginning next week. The loser will have another opportunity to qualify for the playoffs by hosting the winner of the Hawks/Hornets Play-In game. The winner of that game will clinch the #8 seed and draw the #1 seed Miami Heat in round one.

The Cavs are entering the post-season for the first time since the 2017-2018 season. Which is the first time without LeBron James since the 1997-1998 season. The 1997-1998 Cavaliers finished 47-35 under head coach Mike Fratello. However, they lost 3-1 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the Indiana Pacers.

The 2021-2022 version of the Cavaliers, when even moderately healthy, were a solid #4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the Cavs were rarely at full strength. After the All-Star break, they tumbled down the Eastern Conference standings. Largely to blame was the myriad of injuries to Cavs core players. Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert missed multiple games down the stretch, accounting for the rapid descent. Despite the injuries, the Cavaliers and head coach JB Bickerstaff showed plenty of resolve. This prevented a complete collapse and allowed a qualify for the Play-In tournament. It’s been a battle of attrition through injuries, a COVID outbreak, and horrendous officiating at times. But the Cavs survived and are on the cusp of their first playoff appearance in 4 years.

Heading into Tuesday’s Play-In game, injuries continue to be a major concern for the Cavs. Star rookie Evan Mobley only recently returned from an ankle injury and All-Star center Jarrett Allen is out with a broken finger. Allen did go through pre-game warm-ups before the Cavs’ game against the Bucks on Sunday. However, he was ruled out Monday evening for Tuesday’s game. It is possible Allen could return for the potential first round match-up with the Boston Celtics should the Cavs win tomorrow, or for the Cavs’ win or go home game against the Hawks/Hornets winner on Friday should the Cavs lose to Brooklyn.

To me, whether the Cavs can win this game or not, will come down to how the youthful team performs in a pressure situation on the road against a veteran team. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Patty Mills, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge have all been on the stage when the lights are brightest in the playoffs. The Cavs, largely, have not. Yes, veterans Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love are battle-tested in the playoffs, but there’s only so much that can be communicated through veterans. Young players don’t have a context of experience for playoff basketball until they go through it. Some feed off of it, others don’t. We will find out how the Cavaliers respond.

 

Impact of the Play-In Tournament on the Cavs 2022 1st round pick.

It’s great to be talking about the Cavaliers and the NBA playoffs, but there is an important footnote to that discussion involving the Cavs’ 2022 first round pick. The Cavs traded the pick in a package to the Indiana Pacers for Caris LeVert. The details of the trade state that the pick is lottery protected, meaning if the Cavs don’t make the playoffs, they will retain the pick in 2022. No, qualifying for the Play-In Tournament does not count as making the playoffs.

Here’s the breakdown:

*If the Cavs beat the Nets, they will lose their first-round pick to Indiana.

*If the Cavs lose to the Nets but beat the winner of the Hawks/Hornets game, they will lose their first-round pick to Indiana.

*If the Cavs lose to the Nets, then lose to the Hawks/Hornets winner, they will keep their first-round pick and enter the draft lottery.

 

My Prediction: The Cavs’ youth and inexperience will show. The injuries and heavy minutes needed to mitigate those injuries will take their toll. I thought the Cavs looked gassed the last 7-10 days. Without Jarrett Allen, may or may not determine the outcome. I think the experienced and high-powered Nets will win and cover the spread: Nets 121- Cavs 108.

 

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Petro

    April 15, 2022 at 6:29 am

    Great job!

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