Wrap-Up — With teams resting their starters across the NBA landscape in preparation for this weekend’s First Round matchups, Wednesday night’s contest for the Cavaliers was essentially about keeping the squad healthy.
With that in mind, Tyronn Lue rested his Big Three and the Cavaliers fell for the fourth straight occasion to end a topsy-turvy regular season – dropping the 98-83 decision on Fan Appreciation Night at The Q.
With the loss, the Cavaliers and Raptors each closed the campaign at 51-31 – with Cavaliers grabbing the East’s second seed, facing off against the 7th-seeded Pacers, who crushed the Hawks on Wednesday night to secure that spot.
This season, the Cavaliers have won three of four against Indiana – including a double-overtime classic less than two weeks ago in Cleveland in which LeBron James scored 41 points in a triple-double and Paul George led everyone with 43. The Wine and Gold haven’t faced the Pacers in the postseason since 1998, when Mike Fratello’s squad – led by Shawn Kemp and Zydrunas Ilgauskas – fell in four games.
In Wednesday night’s finale, the Cavaliers featured four players in double-figures, with Iman Shumpert leading the way with 11 points – going 3-of-8 from the floor to go with three boards, three assists and a pair of steals.
Tristan Thompson returned to the lineup after a four-game lay-off that halted his games-played streak at 447. Playing with a wrapped right hand to protect his sprained thumb, Thompson finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting, adding four boards and a steal.
Deron Williams followed his season-high 35-point effort on Monday night with 10 points on Wednesday – going 3-of-4 from long-range and adding four assists and three boards in the loss.
Derrick Williams led Cleveland’s second unit with 10 points – going 3-of-8 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from deep to go with four boards and three helpers, but he was not the most impressive reserve on Wednesday night.
That honor goes to Edy Tavares – who was inked by the Cavaliers earlier in the day as they released Larry Sanders to make way for a new man in the middle. All the 7-3 Tavares did was go 3-of-4 from the floor to finish with six points, a team-high 10 boards and a jaw-dropping six blocked shots in just 24 minutes of work.
The six blocks were the most since Big Z swatted seven against Utah in mid-November of 2007 and was one shy of tying Larry Nance for the most (7) in a single half.
The Cavaliers also inked veteran guard Dahntay Jones on Wednesday afternoon. Jones – who was signed before the final game of the 2015-16 season and helped the Wine and Gold win the World Championship – added nine points, two boards and an assist in 12 minutes of action.
Six Cavaliers score 9+ points as the Wine and Gold fall in the regular season finale.
Cleveland stuck with the Raptors – who’ll face the 6th-seeded Bucks in the First Round this weekend – for most of the night. But a sluggish second quarter that saw the Cavaliers tally just 13 points on 22 percent shooting proved to be too much to overcome in their final home date of the regular season.
Turning Point — Toronto started both Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas on Wednesday night, and that duo was the cause of Cleveland’s undoing late in the second quarter.
With 7:47 to play in the period, Derrick Williams hit a pair of free throws that got the Cavaliers to within three – 32-29. But the Raptors’ All-Star guard began heating up, scoring five straight points.
Valanciunas got in on the act moments later – drilling the first and only three-pointer of his six-year career as the Raptors closed the quarter on a 21-5 run that put the Wine and Gold in arrears for the rest of the night.
By the Numbers – .756 … Cavaliers home winning percentage at Quicken Loans Arena this season – tops in the Eastern Conference this season. They went 8-1 against the Atlantic Division, were 12-3 against West, averaged 113.5 points per contest and even improved to 6-0 all-time on Christmas Day on the corner of Huron and Ontario.
Quotable – Derron Williams, on shouldering the load on Monday night …
”It was tough. I haven’t played that many minutes in a while. When (Kay Felder) went out and I had to play pretty much the whole second half and overtime; it was definitely tough on me. It’s just part of the game. LeBron had to play 50-something (minutes) the other night, so I can’t feel too bad for myself.”
Up Next — After dropping their last four and sliding in the 2nd spot in the East, the Wine and Gold will take on the Pacers in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Since LeBron’s return to the Cavaliers, they’ve gone 8-4 against Indiana, including a perfect 6-0 mark at home. It’s been a different story at Bankers Life Fieldhouse over the years, however – with the Wine and Gold dropping 12 of their previous 14 in Indy dating back to 2009. That all goes out the window when the series tips off this weekend.
Calls of the Game