On Friday night, the last two games of the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament concluded, and the Atlanta Hawks secured the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the New Orleans Pelicans locked up the #8 seed in the Western Conference. With losses in the Play-In Tournament finale, the Cleveland Cavs and LA Clippers both bubbled the playoffs.
Trae Young from the Atlanta Hawks waves goodbye to the crowd in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse after the Cleveland Cavs were knocked out of the Play-In Tournament. (Image: David Richard/Getty)
Both the Hawks and Pelicans finished in ninth place in their respective conferences and defeated the eighth-place teams to advance to the postseason.
The Hawks now have a first-round date with the #1 Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Pelicans will play the #1 Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Pelicans are the biggest long shot on the NBA futures at +25000 odds to win the 2022 NBA championship. The Hawks are +12000 odds to win the title.
Atlanta Hawks 107, Cleveland Cavs 101
The Cleveland Cavs got Jarrett Allen back in the lineup in the Play-in Tournament, after he missed the final 19 games of the regular season with a fractured finger. With Allen on the floor, the Cavs looked like their old self and built up a double-digit lead in the first half. Their defense also kept Trae Young in check and held him to just six points.
The Hawks overcame a ten-point halftime deficit thanks to Young, who erupted for 32 of his game-high 38 points in the second half. Young scored 16 points in the third quarter and knocked down multiple “logo shots” and deep 3-point bombs.
“He made shots from the jump circle,” said Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff.
Young silenced the hostile crowd in Cleveland, and put away the Cavs with 16 more points in the fourth quarter.
“We took care of business,” Young said. “It’s a testament to our team that we kept fighting and finished the job.”
“Trae has a great deal of confidence in his game, his ability and he continued to believe,” said Hawks head coach Nate McMillan. “I didn’t see any panic in his play. He came out in the second half, remained aggressive. Those shots started to fall, the same shots that he was taking the first half, they started to fall in the second half.”
Lauri Markkanen led the Cavs with 26, and Darius Garland added 21 in the loss.
New Orleans Pelicans 105, LA Clippers 101
The New Orleans Pelicans held off the “Cardiac Clippers” when the Curse of the Clippers reared its ugly head n the Play-In Tournament. The Clippers thought the dreaded curse was lifted last season after advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. Alas, the Clippers Curse loomed large when Paul George tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning and missed the game.
The Clippers didn’t blink because they played the bulk of the season without George. Even when they fell behind by 16 points, the Clippers hunkered down and stormed back to take a 13-point lead.
However, the Pelicans launched a successful counterattack in the fourth quarter thanks to an 11-0 run to get back into the game. The Pelicans held the Clippers to just 17 points in the final frame.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 30 points. CJ McCollum added 19, while Larry Nance Jr tallied a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds.
“That win was big-time,” said Pelicans head coach Willie Green. “It was an emotional game, a ton of highs and lows. But for us, our mentality is we’re going to continue to fight. We’re not going to fade out.”
Reggie Jackson and Monte Morris both scored 27 points in the loss. The Clippers couldn’t hit a 3-pointer to save their lives with a 9-for-36 clip, or just 25%. The starters were 6-for-27 from downtown. Jackson and Morris missed seven treys each, and Nicolas Batum shot 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“I am disappointed in us not being able to make the playoffs, no matter who was playing,” said Clippers head coach Ty Lue.
Check out OG’s coverage of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.