Darius Garland on Cavs' Play-in Tournament Loss: 'I Was Kind of Hurt About It'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 10, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Darius Garland #10 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Atlanta Hawks during the 2022 Play-In Tournament on April 15, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Darius Garland was one victory away from making the playoffs for the first time in his career, but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament.

While the losses still hurt, he is using them as motivation for the 2022-23 campaign.

"Getting into the playoffs, for sure," he told Tyler R. Tynes of GQ when asked what his goals are moving forward. "I want to make it to the first or second round. That’s my No. 1 goal. Having that play-in game experience and not getting into the playoffs, I was kind of hurt about it. But, next year, we’ll be back better and a lot healthier."

Tynes also asked Garland what specifically hurt about those losses, and the guard explained he just wanted to keep playing in those types of environments:

"It was getting that experience and I didn't want the season to end. Being there, feeling the playoff experience, that atmosphere with the whole city behind you, you could barely hear in the arena. It was lit the whole time, in Brooklyn [and in] the second game against Atlanta at home. That was probably the most intense basketball I've ever had in my life. So it was cool having that experience, but I definitely want to get into the playoffs."

There are plenty of reasons to think Garland will get that playoff experience sooner rather than later.

He is part of a talented young core that includes Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert. Garland and Allen were each first-time All-Stars this season, and Mobley was a double-double threat every time he stepped on the floor during his rookie campaign.

The potential return of Collin Sexton, who was lost for the season because of a knee injury, could also bolster Cleveland's chances, although he is scheduled to be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Yet Garland may represent the biggest source of optimism.

The No. 5 overall pick of the 2019 NBA draft took a major jump this season and averaged 21.7 points, 8.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 46.2 percent from the field, which were all career-high marks.

His ability to score from the outside or by attacking all while facilitating and running the offense at just 22 years old suggests the best is yet to come for the Cavaliers.