The Cleveland Cavaliers fell in a 108-107 preseason loss to the Atlanta Hawks in State Farm Arena on Tuesday.
Four Cavaliers scored in double-figures during the road loss, including forwards Isaac Okoro and Emoni Bates off the bench. Cleveland guard Caris LeVert was slotted into the starting lineup during last night’s game, finishing with seven points and four assists during the 15 minutes he played on Tuesday. Hawks guard Trent Forrest scored a team-leading 13 points off the bench, while center Clint Capela led the squad with 10 total rebounds. The Cavs dished a total of 30 assists during Tuesday’s win. Six Cavaliers recorded three assists or more.
“I thought we got done what we were trying to get done,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said after the game, via Cleveland.com Cavs reporter Chris Fedor. “Offensively, we did a really good job of moving the ball, sharing the ball, creating a bunch of wide-open shots for guys who are capable of knocking them down.
“We struggled a little bit from the field and from 3 tonight but those are shots we will take all night long. And it was the way we created them. I feel like it was a good start. Great for us to get it on film. Go home and break it down and get better.”
What are some key takeaways from Cleveland’s loss to the Hawks during their first game of the NBA preseason?
Cavs embraced high-pace, motion offense
The Cavs took 24th place in the league with 31.6 attempts from the 3-point line per game during the 2022-23 regular season. They finished last in the league with a pace, or “the number of possessions per 48 minutes for a team or player,” of 96.27, according to NBA.com.
Cleveland attempted 48 3-point shots throughout the course of Tuesday’s preseason matchup, a figure that would be the second-most during their 2022-23 regular season campaign. Its first points came off of a 3-point make from forward Max Strus, who knocked down a quick shot over Hawks guard Dejounte Murray with 11:33 remaining in the first quarter. Though the Cavs would finish the game with a 27.1% 3-point percentage, they still showed they were at least laying the foundation for a more fast-paced offense.
“It was fun. There was a lot of good we can take from tonight,” Strus said, via Fedor. “I like how our offense played and the ball moved. We got great shots. Just didn’t make them.
“Shots will fall. Not worried about that at all. First game of the year. If we play like that every night, we will have a lot of fun nights.”
Cavs younger options showed increased confidence
The Cavs saw plenty of minutes from some of their younger options, including all three of their two-way players in Bates, guard Craig Porter Jr. and forward Isaiah Mobley.
Forward Evan Mobley, the former No. 3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, ended the night with 10 points and nine rebounds. Cleveland leaned into using the 22-year-old forward as a “hub” on offense, as highlighted by former Brooklyn Nets Assistant Coach for Player Development Steve Jones Jr. He showed off his ability to work in the interior during his 16 minutes of play, highlighted by a putback layup through contact following a missed 3-point shot from LeVert. Okoro added 19 points and three assists as he drove to the basket or patrolled the perimeter off the ball for easy scores.
Bates nearly won the game for the Cavs after hitting a confident step-back 3-point attempt with just about 11 seconds remaining. The former Memphis and Eastern Michigan forward took to Twitter after ending the night with 10 points as he hit four of his seven shot attempts and two of his five from long range.
“I just played my first NBA game and I still got chills man I’m so blessed and thankful to be here,” Bates wrote.
Cavs guards remained active on defense
ESPN senior writer Zach Lowe highlighted how Cleveland’s guards were involved in its top-rated defense in a late-January article.
“Cleveland’s guards are doing their part,” Lowe wrote. “When they opened the season defending with new urgency, it was tempting to chalk it up to week one enthusiasm: This will fade. It hasn’t.”
Cleveland’s guards remained active during their preseason matchup against the Hawks. The Cavs ended the game with a total of 13 steals, while the Hawks ended with 20 total turnovers. Guard Donovan Mitchell finished with three steals. He stole the ball from Hawks forward Jalen Johnson before driving in for a routine dunk on the other side of the floor in the first quarter. Guard Darius Garland picked off a pass from Young before assisting LeVert on a contested layup in transition.