On the second half of a back-to-back, the Hawks (40-37) cruised to a key 131-107 win vs. the Cavaliers (42-35) Thursday at State Farm Arena.

Next up, the Hawks will host the Nets Saturday.

1. With this win, the Hawks have clinched at least a spot in the play-in tournament, or a top-10 finish in the Eastern Conference. It’s not where they wanted to be at this point in the season, as a No. 9 or No. 10 seed would require two consecutive wins in order to advance to the actual playoffs, but at the very least it means they’re guaranteed a spot to keep fighting for a postseason berth. The goal now, per Hawks coach Nate McMillan, is to keep climbing in the standings (they’re currently tied with the Nets and Hornets).

“... We had the opportunity to clinch that spot, being in the top 10, but we also have a chance to move up in these remaining games,” McMillan said. “Our approach to this game had to be such. We come out, take care of business, establish ourselves right from the start defensively and I thought we did that.”

2. For the first time this season, the Hawks are three games above .500. They’ve won four games in a row and nine of their last 12. Again, the Hawks faced a team missing multiple starters to injury, with the Cavaliers missing three starters in rookie of the year candidate Evan Mobley (left ankle sprain), plus key contributors Collin Sexton (left knee meniscal tear) and Jarrett Allen (left third finger fracture), but they did what they needed to do and capitalized.

3. Clint Capela was everywhere in this game, tallying 12 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double, plus two assists, two steals and three blocks. He and backup center Onyeka Okongwu (17 points, 12 rebounds) anchored a defense that forced 14 steals, which led to 24 Atlanta points, helping to easily polish this one off. The Hawks led by 13 at halftime and led by 25 entering the fourth quarter.

4. Toward the end of the first half, Trae Young had to get checked out after falling down on a shot attempt. Although he was helped back to the locker room, listed as questionable to return with right groin soreness, Young came back out to start the second half. After the win, Young said his groin has been sore the last few weeks and taking a wrong step aggravated it, but he was able to play through it and finish with a game-high 30 points and nine assists.

“It hurt for a second, but I was able to be alright,” Young said of his groin.

Hawks' guard Trae Young (11) reacts after falling to the court during the first half in an NBA basketball game at State Farm Arena on Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)


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5. Kevin Huerter continued his hot shooting stretch, finishing with 23 points and shooting 5-for-6 from beyond the arc, adding two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Huerter had 20 points, six rebounds and two assists in last Friday’s win vs. the Warriors, shooting 5-for-12 from 3-point range, had 22 points and six assists in Monday’s win vs the Pacers, shooting 6-for-10 from 3-point range and had 20 points and three steals in Wednesday’s win vs. the Thunder, shooting 4-for-5 from 3-point range.

McMillan also complimented Huerter’s defense, helping to limit Darius Garland (typically Cleveland’s leading scorer at 21.6 points per game) to 18 points.

“He was the player of the game for us,” McMillan said of Huerter. “... Guarding Garland, that’s a challenge, and I thought he did a good job of staying connected with him, trying to keep him in front, not allowing him to see anything clean and offensively, he’s in rhythm. I think Trae’s doing a really good job of getting our guys the ball and (Huerter) is knocking down shots. He’s been able to make some plays with the ball. So he really has been solid for us on both sides of the ball.”

Stat of the game: 43.6% (or 17-for-39, what the Hawks shot from 3-point range compared to the Cavaliers’ 23.3%, or 7-for-30)

Star of the game: Huerter (continued his hot shooting streak with 23 points and five 3′s, plus disrupted Garland on defense)

Quotable: “It feels like we’re getting everything right now. ... This is kind of what we knew we were capable of all year and just had to get back to it.” (Huerter on how the Hawks are firing on all cylinders on offense and getting easier shots lately, with Atlanta scoring 130-plus points three games in a row)