CHICAGO: The season ended Thursday with Kyrie Irving stuck to the bench and D.J. Kennedy playing big minutes against the best team in the Eastern Conference. It ended with Antawn Jamison missing more shots than he made in his Cavs finale and Luke Harangody playing more minutes than Anthony Parker.
Most importantly, the season simply ended.
This marathon shoehorned into a lockout-induced sprint, this difficult 21-win season ended with a 107-75 loss to the Chicago Bulls on a night both teams rested their stars.
It’s the second time this season the Bulls beat the Cavs by more than 30 points, but that didn’t matter on this night, given the lineups both teams trotted out.
Coach Byron Scott kept Irving out of the game, just as he said he would on Wednesday, and played guys like Kennedy and Harangody big minutes.
With their first-round playoff series starting on Saturday, the Bulls held out Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kyle Korver. Still, the result was predictable.
Now the Cavaliers will wait to learn their draft lottery fate, which has been one of the top priorities for this team since the trade deadline.
The Cavs can finish no worse than tied with the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets for the NBA’s third-worst record, which means they can draft no lower than sixth.
If the Hornets lost at Houston on Thursday and the Kings lost at home to the Lakers, a drawing will be held today at the league office in New York to determine the draft order. Head to head records, wins against similar opponents and all those other complicated tiebreakers don’t matter.
The names simply go into a hat and get drawn randomly to determine the order.
As for the draft lottery, which determines the top three spots, all the teams tied will simply divide up the lottery chances. If the Hornets and Kings also lost Thursday, for example, the three teams will divide up the 363 chances out of 1,000 given to the teams with the third, fourth and fifth-worst records.
That means the Cavaliers, Hornets and Kings will each have 121 lottery ball combinations at the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The Cavs got lucky in the lottery last season and were rewarded with Irving, which is a big reason why coach Byron Scott is so optimistic despite a 40-108 record through his first two seasons. They ended this season by losing four straight and 19 of their last 23.
But with a core of Irving, Tristan Thompson and another high pick coming in June, Scott is excited for the future.
“To have 21 wins at this time, with a shortened season, and the future of this team with a young guys like Kyrie and Tristain, I think it’s going to be bright,” Scott said. “I’m excited about that. I think the future is very bright for us.”
Donald Sloan had 12 points and Jamison had 12 points in his final Cavs game, but shot just 4 of 18. Jamison, now a free agent, said after Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards he wasn’t returning to Cleveland next season.
Thompson had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Harangody had 12 points off the bench.
John Lucas matched a career high with 25 points for the Bulls, while Joakim Noah had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Cavaliers flew home immediately following the game and are expected to reconvene this morning at Cleveland Clinic Courts for the final time this season. They’ll clean out their lockers, have exit meetings with the coaching staff and front office and head home for at least a couple of weeks.
The Cavs have already made it clear they want a number of their players – including Irving, Thompson, Gee and Donald Sloan, among others – back in Cleveland working out for most of the summer.
Scott has reiterated in recent days that players don’t improve during the season, they improve based on the work they put in during the summer. And this summer, much like last summer, is critical to the development of this franchise.