NBA fans are wondering if the Cavaliers lost the fourth quarter in order to be seeded for the playoffs

NBA

If the Cavaliers were intentionally trying to lose on Sunday, they didn't seem to be hiding it at all.

The Cavaliers fell to the Hornets, 120-110, after pulling almost their entire starting lineup — with the exception of Max Stause — and shuffling their bench for the season finale.

Cleveland's eight-point lead evaporated heading into the final quarter of the game, and the Hornets took control, resulting in the loss and earning Cleveland the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff's decision has sparked a lot of debate over whether he intentionally botched Sunday's game in order to reach the fourth seed in the playoffs and secure an easier first-round matchup at the Magic.

The Magic are in the playoffs for the first time in 2020 and only the third time since 2012.

J.B. Bickerstaff and the Cavaliers lost to the Hornets on Sunday. AP

For his part, Bickerstaff confirmed after the game that the Cavaliers' plan all along was to give their bench players a chance to get some time on the court on Sunday.

“We told the players beforehand that we wanted everyone to have a chance to play,” Bickerstaff said. “We had our plan instead of what we were going to do with our guys. [The starters] They were going to play those three quarters.

However, some skeptics felt the decision was made based on the playoff seeding situation and in order to prevent themselves from having to face the Joel Embiid-led 76ers in the first round.

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With the Knicks and Bulls going to overtime, the Cavaliers could have easily ended up facing the 76ers.

The Knicks eventually won in overtime.

While the decision gave the Magic a first-round win, it also set up a potential second-round matchup with the Celtics — the Eastern Conference juggernaut.

Evan Mobley did not play in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' loss to the Hornets on Sunday.
Evan Mobley did not play in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' loss to the Hornets on Sunday. USA Today Sports

And risking a loss Sunday may have eliminated the chance of a No. 3 seed, a first-round meeting with the Pacers, and the chance of avoiding the Celtics until the conference finals, even if they beat the Magic.

“In live time, it's hard trying to get all that information,” Bickerstaff said regarding other games going on and seeding status for the playoffs. “We knew some of these things were happening, but once we sat down with our guys at the end of the third quarter and they had the mindset that they weren't going to come back, I didn't want to take any risk of getting them back in the game.”

However, that won't save the Cavaliers and Bickerstaff from the wrath of some NBA fans.

“The Cavs' intentional loss in a game they favor best tells you everything you need to know about what they think of themselves. Pretty embarrassing. Whew,” One user wrote on X.

The NBA playoffs won't begin until April 20 after a tournament is held to round out the bottom two spots in the postseason.

This will be the first time since the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals that the Magic and Cavaliers will face each other in the playoffs.




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