One period into the game, the Cleveland Cavaliers appeared to have everything going their way in their play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Scoring thirty-eight points and holding a thirteen-point lead can give teams and fans a large amount of confidence.
And when Atlanta only cut the lead to ten at the half, it seemed that while the lead wasn't large enough to book your flight to Miami for the playoff yet, everything did point in that direction.
And then Trae Young woke up.
Young tossed 32 of his game-high 38 points in the second half and led Atlanta to a 107-101 comeback win that will see the Hawks in the playoffs against the Miami Heat and Cleveland at home for the postseason.
Lauri Markkanen led the Cavaliers with 27 points, Darius Garland added 21 with Evan Mobley assisting with 18 points.
1) Even after the first quarter and the thirteen point lead, you didn't think the game was over and it was for one reason- The Cavaliers spent much of the second quarter firing up off-balance shots (oftentimes on the drive) that made you think of a talented youth league team that thought once they had the lead that they could goof off and blew chances to truly put the game out of reach.
2) Then there was Trae Young, who scored only six points in the first half and then a whopping thirty-two in the second.
Young started hitting contested shots from well beyond the three-point line, beating defenders off the dribbles, and was even scoring on baseline layups.
In other words, Cleveland couldn't stop Young, and the only way Atlanta could win happened.
3) Darius Garland finished with 21 points but did it on nine for twenty-seven shooting and kept driving to the hoop, getting caught in traffic against Hawks defenders, and forced off-balance shots.
I've complimented Garland over the last month for developing an alpha dog mentality and I stand by that but if you are going to be the player that is going to carry the load, you need to develop some more moves to the basket- And if you are going to shoot twenty-seven times, you better hit more than nine of them.
4) Lauri Markkanen didn't play well against Brooklyn but he led the team in scoring with 27 points and hit six of ten three-point attempts.
Markkanen can be streaky and I still think his long-term best role will be what Kevin Love is doing now but when he is feeling it, it can be an awesome thing to see.
5) J.B. Bickerstaff played only eight players, and Kevin Love played only ten minutes.
I can understand why Love was idle with Lauri Markkanen playing so well but Isaac Okoro played twenty-two after an awful game against Brooklyn and Cedi Osman and Lamar Stevens didn't play at all.
Osman appears to be an especially puzzling decision not to play as maybe his defense could have helped against Bogdan Bogdanovic.
6) Bogdanovic scored nineteen points off Atlanta's bench, which was ten more than Cleveland's bench (Love, Okoro, and Rajon Rondo).
I would like to know what either or both of Osman and Stevens would have added to this game as both are the type of players that can give a team and a crowd an emotional lift with one or two energetic plays- especially in the second half.
7) Cleveland did welcome Jarrett Allen back and Allen played hard, scored eleven points but pulled down just three rebounds.
You could tell the finger affected Allen defensively as he was trying to rebound almost one-handed to avoid contact with his broken finger, and a few times tapped the ball in the direction of a Cavalier rather than grab the ball.
8) The Cavaliers also struggled in moving the ball in the second half and that resulted in not only the desperate drives of Darius Garland but a few shot clock violations as well.
Cleveland is talented but they aren't yet to the point that they can run isolation so often and allow the ball to become stagnant-which is exactly what happened in the second half.
9) You could tell the playoff pressure was hitting a young team in the fourth quarter and while it's not always fair to play that they played scared, it certainly looked like a team that hadn't been in this situation before.
That is why I wanted them to win this game so badly- Even if the Cavaliers dropped four in a row to Miami, the experience gained would have been priceless.
10) Trae Young slammed the ball to the floor and waved goodbye to the crowd as he walked off the floor.
Young had been heckled all game (some of which were less than clean and could be heard on the ESPN broadcast) and I really can't blame him for ribbing the crowd back- especially after the second half that he played.
Sometimes it's best to wait until the game is over or as Kenny Rogers sang in "The Gambler"- "There will be time enough for counting when the dealings done".
11) Awkward stat of the year.
Friday's loss was the eighteenth of the season that Cleveland led by ten points or more at one point in the game.
That is something that will have to be figured out before next season.
12) Trading for Caris LeVert didn't pay the dividends that the Cavaliers and Koby Altman intended for this season but there is always hope for next season and because Altman had the foresight to cover his baselines at a time when the Cavaliers not making the playoffs seemed extremely remote.
Altman added a clause to the trade that didn't seem important at the time but is very important now as if the Cavaliers didn't make the playoffs, Cleveland would retain the first-rounder that seemed destined to move to the Pacers in Indianapolis.
Because of that, the Cavaliers will be in the lottery and while the odds are against them getting higher than fourteenth (Cleveland will either be in the top three or fourteenth as the team with the best record in the lottery), that pick would not be owned by Cleveland at all without some forethought about the worst-case scenario.
13) I am planning to do a season review next week but despite a disappointing ending to the season and final month, you cannot help but be pleased overall.
Entering the season, Cleveland's ceiling appeared to challenge to just slide into the play-in series as the tenth seed, and instead, they won forty-four games to double their win total from the previous season.
The Cavaliers were a fun team for most of the season, outperformed any expectations, and dealt with plenty of adversity.
Evan Mobley has an excellent chance of winning Rookie of the Year and Darius Garland took another step towards stardom in a season to be remembered perhaps as the start of a successful period of future playoff runs.
They aren't perfect and I'll try to write what they need in the season review but this season was a success, even as they fell short of what seemed to be certain to be even more.