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Hawks, Pelicans earn NBA play-offs spots

When the final horn sounded and Trae Young’s work was done, he slammed the ball off the floor, sending it spinning skyward. He then turned and waved goodbye to the Cleveland fans retreating to the the exits.

So cold.

Ice Trae stings again.

Young scored 32 of his 38 points in the second half and the Atlanta Hawks overcame losing centre Clint Capela to a knee injury to beat the Cavaliers 107-101 in the play-in on Friday night to earn the Eastern Conference’s No.8 play-off seed.

Their reward is a first-round showdown with the top-seeded Miami Heat, with Game 1 on Sunday in south Florida.

In the west, the New Orleans Pelicans overcame a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 105-101 to grab the final spot in the playoffs.

The Pelicans made the post-season for the first time since 2017-18, guided by first-year coach Willie Green, a former Clippers player.

They’ve been without Zion Williamson all season because of a foot injury.

But it was the absence of Clippers star Paul George, who earlier in the day entered the league’s health and safety protocols, that proved too much to handle for the hosts.

In Cleveland, Young started slowly for the second straight game, but the All-Star found his groovewhen it mattered most.

“He made shots from the jump circle,” marvelled Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

Young scored 16 points in third quarter to rally the Hawks from a 10-point half-time deficit, and added another 16 in the fourth to finish off the Cavs, whose inexperience showed throughout the second half.

“We took care of business,” Young said. “It’s a testament to our team that we kept fighting and finished the job.”

The Hawks may have to go forward without Capela. The 208cm-tall Swiss hyperextended his right knee late in the first half, had to be helped from the floor and couldn’t return.

Brandon Ingram led the way for the Pelicans in LA with 30 points while CJ McCollum added 19.

“That win was big-time,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.

New Orleans blew a 16-point lead in the first half and didn’t grab the lead for good until the game’s final five minutes.

“It was an emotional game, a ton of highs and lows,” Green said.

“But for us, our mentality is we’re going to continue to fight. We’re not going to fade out.”

The Pelicans will travel to the Phoenix Suns, who had the best record in the regular season, with Game 1 of their series tipping-off on Sunday.

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