Cavaliers clinch first playoff berth since 2017-18 with 108-91 win over Houston
BY TIM SHIRER
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The Cleveland Cavaliers (47-28, 29-8 RMFH) entered Sunday night's game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse against the Houston Rockets (18-56, 6-30 road) on the verge of doing something the franchise had not done in six year, reach the NBA post season. With a win the Cavs would clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2017-18. The Cavs followed the script even though it got iffy for a while at the end of third quarter as they took over in the final five minutes and shot down the Rockets 108-91 to clinch the playoff berth.
The Rockets and Cavs faced one time this season prior to tonight and that was in Houston on January 26 and the Cavs won in a blowout 113-95. The Rockets lead the all-time series 88-49. The Rockets also lead the all-time series in Cleveland (Cleveland Arena, Richfield Coliseum, RMFH) entering Sunday night 33-35.
The game was close early for about the first 7:30 and then the Cavs took control. With 3:52 left in the first quarter Donovan Mitchell hit a long three to give the Cavs a 25-16 lead. As the quarter ended Darius Garland hit a step back jumper to give the Cavs a 33-22 lead after 12 minutes. The Cavs outrebounded the Rockets 9-6 in the quarter.
The Cavs continued their double digit lead for the first half of the second quarter leading by as many as 13. With 1:10 left in the first half the Cavs attained their biggest lead of the first half when they went up 57-41 on a three pointer from Mitchell on a nice pass from Jarrett Allen. They then went up by 19 with :34 left in the half at 60-41 when Mitchell drained another three. As the halftime buzzer sounded the Cavs controlled the game in every phase with a 60-43 lead. The Cavs had three players in double figures in the first half. Mitchell led all scorers with 18 points. Evan Mobley had 12 and Allen had 11. Jalen Green led the Rockets with 11 first half points. The Cavs outrebounded the Rockets 20-15 in the first 24 minute led by Allen who had seven first half boards. Turnovers were nearly even with the Rockets besting Cavs by one turnover 8-7. The Cavs turned the eight Rocket miscues into 12 points. The Cavs outshot the Rockets 58% (23 of 40) to 42% (18 of 43) in the first half also.
With 9:54 left in the third quarter the Cavs crossed the 20 point lead threshold at 68-48 when Garland drove the paint for a layup. The Rockets showed life cutting the lead to 72-57 with 7:35 left on the clock when Green drained a three pointer. Cleveland pushed the lead back to 18 at 79-61 with 5:44 remaining when Allen hit two free throws. Midway through the third it was revealed that Isaac Okoro would not return to the game due soreness in his left knee. The Rockets cut the Cavs lead to 81-69 with 3:31 left on another three by Green his fifth of the game. Houston then cut the Cavs lead to 81-71 after Alperen Sengun drained two free throws after being fouled by Cedi Osman. The lead was then down to 81-75 with 1:54 left when Kevin Porter, Jr intently slammed home a two handed dunk. Houston cut the lead to five at 83-78 with :59.7 remaining in the third when Sengun hit one of two free throws after being fouled by Garland. It was Garland’s fourth personal foul of the game. The quarter ended with the Cavs leading by only five points at 85-80 after being outscored 37-25 in the third. Green led all scorers with 25 points. Mitchell led the Cavs with 20 after three. Mobley 18, Allen 16, and Garland 13 were all in double figures scoring. Allen led everyone on the board with eight rebounds. The Rockets rebounded the Cavs 12-8 in the third, but the Cavs till led Rockets in the game after three 28-27.
With 8:06 left on the game clock Allen slammed home a dunk to extend the Cavs lead back double digits at 93-82 forcing Houston to regroup. The Rockets would not go away. The Cavs would extend the lead to double digits and then the Rockets cut it back to single digits this is how a good portion of the final quarter went. The Cavs started to pull away in the final five minutes extending their lead to 16 at 102-86 with 4:20 left on a fast break dunk by Caris LeVert. The Cavs ran the lead to 108-91 with 1:02 left on a three pointer by Mamadi Diakite on an assist from Sam Merrill. As the final seconds ticked off the clock the Cavaliers ended a 1,750-day playoff drought since June 8, 2018, when the Warriors completed a 4-0 sweep of the Cavs in the NBA finals.
The Rockets Green led all scorers in the game with 30 points in the losing effort. Allen led the Cavs with 24 points and 14 rebounds. The Cavs including Allen had five players in double figures. Besides Allen Mitchell had 22, Mobley had 19, Garland 17, and LeVert had 10 points in the clinching game. Garland led the Cavs with eight assists and Allen led on everybody in the game on the boards with 14. The Cavs took advantage of 19 Rockets turnovers converting them to 21 points. Meanwhile the Cavs took great care of the ball turning it over only 11 times in the game and only five times in the second half.
Cleveland will have to wait to see who their first round playoff opponent will be, but it looks like the Cavs are locked into the fourth spot and will most likely face the New York Knicks in the first round with the Cavs having the home court advantage.
The Cavs will be in action next on Tuesday night when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks (37-37, 21-15 home) at 7:30 pm.
POSTED 03/26/2023 20:53