CLEVELAND -- Winning a game against a division opponent by 22 points is not often a sad occasion, but as the Cleveland Cavaliers dispatched of the Detroit Pistons, 122-100, at Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday night, the Atlanta Hawks staged a comeback win over the Boston Celtics.
By doing so, the Hawks eliminated the Cavaliers from playoff contention.
"It's more of an empty feeling that you have now that our chances are done," Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said, flatly. "You think about things you could've done, should've done. It's inevitable, especially with as big a competitor as I am. It's definitely going to be on my mind.
"You always want to compete for something as special as the playoffs, but our chances were snapped today. It's disappointing, but on the flip side, we have three games left to play with one another, and that's what I'm looking forward to."
While Irving talked about missed opportunities, Cleveland coach Mike Brown looked back on the difficulties the team had in the first three-plus months of the season. Combined between November, December and January, the Cavaliers won only 15 games, and no more than six in a month until February.
It was during the month of February that the Cavaliers fought their way back into playoff contention with a six-game winning streak that bridged the NBA All-Star Weekend, followed by two more wins, at Oklahoma City and against Utah, at the end of the month.
"More than anything, the thing that eats at me is the first couple months with the transition and stuff that we went through and just not being able to win a few more games," Brown said. "Going 5-12 in one month and going 5-10 in another month is tough. You've got to play almost perfect basketball, and we're not quite to that level.
"It puts a lot of pressure on you as the year goes along. You just wish that you had some of those games back so we could keep experiencing playing past April."
Anderson Varejao is the only Cavaliers player who knows what it is like to play a playoff game in Cleveland, something that has not happened since the 2010 season. And it is because of the expectations the team placed on itself that Varejao said makes being eliminated from the playoffs all the more difficult.
"It's tough because going into the season, we thought we had a chance to make the playoffs," Varejao said. "We had some ups and downs during the season. We had some injuries and we didn't make the playoffs. We just need to finish the season strong and I'm looking forward for next season."