Friday's NBA: Young's 38 lift Hawks past Cavs for No. 8 playoff seed

Beth Harris
Associated Press

Cleveland — Trae Young scored 32 of his 38 points in the second half and the Atlanta Hawks overcame losing center Clint Capela to a knee injury to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-101 in the play-in on Friday night and earn the Eastern Conference's No. 8 playoff seed.

Young started slowly for the second straight game, but “Ice Trae,” as he fancies himself, heated up when it mattered most.

The All-Star guard scored 16 points in third quarter to rally the Hawks from a 10-point halftime deficit, and added another 16 in the fourth to finish off the Cavs, whose inexperience showed throughout the second half.

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young reacts to a foul call during the first half of the team's NBA play-in basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, April 15, 2022, in Cleveland.

Bogdan Bogdanovic added 19 points for Atlanta, which will play No. 1 seed Miami in the first round. Game 1 is Sunday in South Florida.

The Hawks, who made it to the conference finals a year ago, may have to go forward without Capela. The 6-foot-10 center hyperextended his right knee late in the first half, had to be helped from the floor and couldn't return.

Lauri Markkanen scored 26 and Darius Garland 21 for the young Cavaliers, whose unexpected season fell just shy of a playoff berth.

Cleveland hasn't been to the playoffs since 2018, and the Cavs haven't been to the postseason without LeBron James on their roster since 1998.

As if to add insult to injury, James tweeted an emoji of an ice cube in the closing seconds — a nod to Young — as the Hawks were ending Cleveland's season.

Lifted by a rowdy, towel-waving crowd in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavs were in position to advance and played well in long stretches. However, Cleveland's offense bogged down in the third quarter, and the Cavs had no answer defensively for Young.

As the final seconds ticked off, Young waved goodbye as the Cleveland crowd thinned out and headed to the exits.

Those who stayed saluted the Cavs, who weren't expected to get this far after winning just 22 games last season. While they've been relegated to lottery picks and losing since James left after a four-year run to the NBA Finals four years ago, the future in Cleveland is bright.

With the season on the line, Cleveland got a huge emotional and defensive lift by the return of All-Star center Jarrett Allen, who had missed the previous 19 games with a broken finger on his left hand. Allen finished with 11 points.

The Hawks were in big trouble late in the third quarter, when Young finally heated up.

Ignoring some vulgar chants by Cleveland fans, the dazzling guard made a pair of 3-pointers and scored Atlanta's final 12 points in the quarter as the Hawks closed with a 17-8 run over the final 3:48 to tie it 84-all going into to the final 12 minutes.

Markkanen made four 3-pointers and Cleveland hit six shots from long range in the first 12 minutes to open an 11-point lead after one.

Atlanta helped with some sloppy play and committed seven turnovers, four by Young.

But once he started taking care of the ball, and making shots, there was no stopping him.

Clippers without Paul George for play-in game

Los Angeles — Paul George has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and will miss the Los Angeles Clippers' play-in game against New Orleans on Friday night.

“We feel really bad for Paul and hope for a speedy recovery,” Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations, said in confirming George's status for the elimination game at Arena.

Frank said George wasn't feeling well Thursday and the team learned of his diagnosis Friday morning. The team didn’t specify what the diagnosis was.

FILE -  Paul George has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and will miss the Los Angeles Clippers' play-in game against New Orleans on Friday night.

George's absence is a huge blow to the Clippers' hopes of making the playoffs. They must win to earn the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup with the NBA-leading Phoenix Suns.

“This is another challenge for our group,” Frank said. “The group has dealt with challenges all year. We’ve had guys in and out of the lineup, we’ve dealt with overcoming large deficits and yet this group has always responded.”

George scored 34 points in a 109-104 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday in the first play-in game. That defeat cost the Clippers the No. 7 seed and a first-round matchup with Memphis.

The Clippers were 22-25 without George in the lineup this season.

He returned late last month after missing 43 games with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. In his first game, he rallied the Clippers from a 25-point deficit to beat Utah 121-115.

“I really think like all the things that we’re going to be asking of our guys tonight, they’ve all done throughout the year,” Frank said. “This isn’t going to be a brand new experience for any of our guys.”

Besides George, the Clippers were already without Kawhi Leonard, who hasn't played all season while rehabbing from an ACL tear.

“He continues to progress with his rehab, but there's still no timetable for his return,” Frank said.

The team recently got Norman Powell back and he teamed with George to help the Clippers win their last five regular-season games. Powell missed two months with a broken bone in his left foot.

Despite the absence of Leonard and multiple injuries, the Clippers finished 42-40.

Embattled Suns owner Sarver retiring from role with bank

Phoenix — Embattled Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is retiring from his role as executive chairman of the Western Alliance Bancorporation.

The company released a statement on Friday saying Sarver would step down in June after having a lead role in the company since 2002. Sarver was the company's CEO from 2002 to 2018.

The NBA has asked a law firm to investigate the Suns after ESPN published a report in November detailing allegations that Sarver has a history of racist, misogynistic and hostile incidents during his 17-year tenure in charge of the franchise.

FILE - Embattled Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is retiring from his role as executive chairman of the Western Alliance Bancorporation.

Sarver — who has owned the Suns since 2004 — has strongly denied the allegations. The 60-year-old Phoenix businessman also owns the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

“It has been an honor to serve as Executive Chairman of Western Alliance Bancorporation. I want to offer my sincere appreciation to our employees, whose hard work and dedication have allowed us to achieve so much during my 20 years at the company,” Sarver said in a statement. “With the company well positioned for continued success and growth, the time is right for me to begin a new chapter."

The Suns have flourished on the court this season, leading the NBA with a franchise-record 64 wins. They're set to host either the Clippers or Pelicans in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs on Sunday.