Cavs end regular season – up next, Indiana in first round of playoffs
LeBron James played in his 82nd game, scored 10 points and then got some rest for the playoffs as the Cleveland Cavaliers were beaten 110-98 by New York in their regular-season finale and coach Jeff Hornacek’s likely last game with the Knicks.
James had never played every game in his 15-year NBA career. But he capped a remarkable season in which he seemed to break a record every night by adding another accomplishment to his long list of achievements.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he tried to talk James out of playing, but he gave in and allowed the 33-year-old to extend his record of scoring in double digits to 873 consecutive games before taking him out. James finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 10:33.
From here out, James, who is aiming to make the Finals for eighth straight time, won’t be sitting much.
With Philadelphia beating Milwaukee, the Cavs are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will face Indiana in the opening round. The Pacers went 3-1 against the Cavs this season.
Meanwhile, another rocky season in New York is mercifully over.
The Knicks (29-53) got off to a solid start but never recovered after losing All-Star Kristaps Porzingis to a torn knee ligament. Hornacek is still under contract, but isn’t expected to return for a third season.
One of the league’s most storied franchises remains aimless. The Knicks have missed the playoffs five straight years and lost at least 50 games in each of the last four.
Knicks rookie Luke Kornet scored a season-high 23 points and Trey Burke added 19.
John Holland scored 21 and rookie Cedi Osman 18 to lead Cleveland.
After an injury-filled regular season for the Cavs, Lue, who missed nine games with his own health scare, didn’t take any chances and sat Kevin Love (hip), Kyle Korver (foot) and Rodney Hood (Achilles).
He was reluctant to play James, but relented — with conditions.
“It’s hard to play 82,” Lue said. “I was in the league 11 years. Never had a chance to get to 82. Everything has to go absolutely right. He wants to play and I guess in his 15th year to get to 82, it really says a lot about him. But once he gets his 10 points, don’t be surprised if I yank him out. He might get mad, but I don’t care.”
Knicks: G Courtney Lee (sprained left ankle) was ruled out before shootaround, leaving New York with just nine players. … Rookie G Frank Ntilikina, the No. 8 overall draft pick, played in a team-high 78 games. “I think he’s been great defensively right from the start,” Hornacek said. “Offensively, he’s had good moments. He’s on his way.”
Cavaliers: Re-signed F Kendrick Perkins for the remainder of the season. Lue believes Perkins, who was on Cleveland’s 2015 Finals team, will be a positive influence on the team’s big men in the playoffs. “He’s always preaching the right message, it’s all about team, when guys miss defensive assignments he calls those guys out,” Lue said. … Perkins said a stint in the G-League was “very humbling.” Perkins recalled some 12-hour bus trips, cramming himself into plane seats and staying at hotels not exactly up to NBA standards. “It wasn’t the end of the world,” he said, “but it wasn’t just like heaven, either.”
Knicks: Following a likely coaching change, the NBA draft on June 21.
Cavaliers: Face Indiana in the first round for the second straight year.