CLEVELAND — All the evidence needed that the Cavs were not going through the motions in the final game of a gut-wrenching season was provided by Jordan Clarkson’s alley-oop to Collin Sexton for a layup as the first half ended and Cedi Osman diving for a loose ball with six minutes to go.
The Hornets came to newly renamed Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Tuesday trying to secure an Eastern Conference playoff berth. But the young Cavs made them work for three quarters before the Hornets secured a 124-97 victory.
The Cavs (19-63) lost their 10th consecutive game and tied for the fourth-worst finish in franchise history. One game out of eighth coming into the day’s play, the Hornets (39-42) won their fourth in a row.
Sexton led the Cavs with with 18 points and a career-high 10 assists, and Clarkson added 16 points. Osman added 17 points and four rebounds, and Larry Nance Jr. contributed 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Channing Frye, a member of the 2016 NBA champions retiring after 13 seasons, scored off Sexton's final three dishes as the Cavs leaped from the bench and mobbed Frye during a late timeout. Shooting free throws to chants of "MVP," Frye finished with 10 points before departing with 31.3 seconds remaining.
Sexton became the eighth Cavs rookie to play in all 82 games. He also became the second Cavs rookie to average 16 points and play in all 82, joining Ron Harper (1986-87), and the first in the league to reach both of those marks since Karl-Anthony Towns (2015-16).
Among those in the crowd on Fan Appreciation Night were injured Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger, who sat behind the Cavs’ bench, and supermodel and “Project Runway” host Karlie Kloss, who watched next to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.
The Cavs entered the night tied for the second-worst record in the league with the Suns, who played at Dallas later Tuesday. Should the Cavs finish second-worst behind the Knicks (16-64 and at Chicago Tuesday), they won’t pick lower than sixth in the NBA draft lottery. Should they finish third-worst, they will select no lower than seventh. If the Cavs and the Suns tie, the league will use a drawing to see who gets the second-worst record.
The Cavs, Suns and Knicks will have an equal 14 percent chance of getting the first overall pick in the lottery.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.