Basketball: Sixers into play-offs after Cavs down Nets

Donovan Mitchell of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks against Yuta Watanabe of the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Centre. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK – At some point in the fourth quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 115-109 National Basketball Association win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell threw down a monster dunk and waited to watch a replay of it.

But the Barclays Centre was not so kind to him.

“I was trying to see it but I forgot we’re on the road,” Mitchell said on ESPN. “So they’re definitely not going to show it.”

After the game, he finally saw a replay in the locker room, but the 2018 All-Star Slam Dunk champion disagreed with his teammates that it was his best ever.

“It’s up there,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know if it’s my best one, but it’s definitely up there.”

The dunk was part of his game-high 31 points as the Cavs’ win also sent the Philadelphia 76ers into the post-season.

Mitchell made 10-of-22 from the field, including five three-pointers, while Caris LeVert added 18 from the bench against his former team as Cleveland improved to 46-28 to tighten their grip on fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Their victory and the Nets’ loss ensured that third-placed Philadelphia (48-23) became the latest team to punch their ticket to the play-offs, despite not playing on Tuesday.

While Cleveland are yet to clinch their spot, it will take a monumental collapse in the final weeks of the season for them not to advance to the post-season.

Tuesday’s game could well turn out to be a sneak preview for the play-offs, with Brooklyn (39-33) still occupying the sixth automatic qualifying spot in the East.

Against Cleveland, they started brightly, taking a 30-23 lead into the second quarter before being outscored 71-48 in the next two periods to effectively cede the game, even if they managed to reduce the deficit to single digits in the final stages.

Day’Ron Sharpe led Brooklyn’s scoring with 20 points while Spencer Dinwiddie had 19 points with 11 assists and five rebounds.

Despite his team’s win, Cavs coach J. B. Bickerstaff was unhappy that they eased off late in the fourth quarter.

“We need to play a complete game,” he said. “We allowed the lead to dictate our emotions, we allowed a big play to dictate our emotions, instead of doing the job and finishing the game the way we need to finish the game.”

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn lamented his team’s collapse in the second and third quarters.

“That’s a big question for us,” he said. “I think we got a little stagnant with the basketball. Tough second quarter for us.

“Along those lines of putting four quarters together, it all seems as if there’s one quarter that punches us in the gut a little bit.”

Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics, who are second in the Eastern Conference, gave the high-flying Sacramento Kings a post-season reality check with a blowout 132-109 road win.

Sacramento have been one of the surprise packages of the Western Conference this season, sitting third in the standings with a 43-29 record.

But the Kings were overpowered by a Celtics line-up that showed flashes of their dominant early season form as they cut loose in the second half to outscore Sacramento 72-55.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics scoring with 36 points, while Jaylen Brown added 27 points and Derrick White 20.

In Los Angeles, the Clippers stumbled to a 101-100 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game that saw Clippers ace Paul George exit with an apparent right leg injury in the fourth quarter.

He needed to be carried back to the locker room after his right knee buckled in a collision with the Thunder’s Luguentz Dort.

There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury, with Clippers coach Tyronn Lue saying the eight-time All-Star was still being evaluated. AFP

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