ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
AP photo by Hakim Wright Sr. / Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young dribbles past Cleveland Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro during Thursday night's game in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Trae Young scored 30 points, and the surging Atlanta Hawks never trailed while beating the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers 131-107 on Thursday night to clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

Cedi Osman led Cleveland with 21 points, and Darius Garland added 18 with eight assists while sitting out the final quarter of the blowout loss.

Cavaliers standout rookie Evan Mobley missed his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle. Cleveland has lost two straight games and five of its past six as it attempts to keep the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings with the regular season set to conclude April 10.

Young had nine assists as the Hawks' fourth consecutive win clinched no worse than the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference and a berth in the play-in tournament ahead of the NBA playoffs. The Hawks began the night one-half game behind the Charlotte Hornets and one game behind the Brooklyn Nets.

Last season, the Hawks made a midseason turnaround after a coaching change to finish fifth in the standings and advance to the conference title round before losing in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks, who went on to win the NBA championship.

"We're in a tight race here at the end, and we're starting to click at the right time," Young said. "We did the same thing last year, and we were able to make a run."

Kevin Huerter continued his strong finish to the regular season with 23 points — his fourth consecutive game with at least 20 — Onyeka Oknogwu had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Clint Capela added 12 and 14.

Huerter is taking advantage of increased scoring opportunities, especially in games when Danilo Gallinari (right elbow contusion) has joined John Collins on the inactive list. Huerter sank five of six 3-point attempts, his fourth consecutive game making at least four 3s.

Some of Huerter's shots are the result of defenses placing extra attention on Young.

"Kevin has been getting more minutes, and playing with Trae the ball has found him," Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said.

Cavaliers coach B.J. Bickerstaff said before the game "we're searching at this point" for a playing rotation due to injuries. Guard Rajon Rando (ankle) missed his 10th consecutive game, while center Jarrett Allen (finger) missed his 12th straight.

Bickerstaff said he respected the Hawks' "firepower" and said "they have the ability to blow you out because of that."

The Hawks delivered on Bickerstaff's assessment.

Atlanta took its first double-digit lead at 29-19 on Bogdan Bogdanovic's 3-pointer with three minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The Hawks stretched the lead to 20 points, 73-53, early in the second half on Young's 3 and extended the advantage to 30 points in the fourth quarter.

Young played the third quarter after sustaining what McMillan said he feared was a serious groin injury in the first half.

"It's been kind of sore these past couple of weeks," Young said. "... I just took a wrong step and it kind of shocked me for a second. ... I'll be all right."

There was no update on Collins almost two weeks after the Hawks announced the forward would be out indefinitely with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot and a right finger sprain. McMillan said Collins "is not doing anything as far as running and jumping" but added "we're not saying he's shut down."

In a pregame ceremony, Young was presented the team's Jason Collier Memorial Trophy for community service. The award is given each year in honor of the Atlanta center who died in 2005 at age 28, shortly before what would have been his third season with the Hawks and sixth in the NBA.

The NBA G League also gives an annual sportsmanship award in Collier's honor

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT