CLEVELAND (AP) -- This milestone was almost meaningless for the
Cavaliers. To them, victory No. 50 doesn't have the significance of
Game No. 83.
Cleveland, once an NBA wasteland, is back in the playoffs.
With LeBron James resting up for his postseason debut, Cleveland
concluded its regular season with a 100-99 victory Wednesday night
over the Hawks, giving the Cavaliers 50 wins for just the fourth
time in franchise history.
"We had fun tonight," forward Donyell Marshall said. "We
wanted to get to 50, and we had fun. This is our last chance to
have fun. Now, it gets serious. It's the second season. It's time
to go to work again."
With the win, the Cavs improved to 50-32 -- the first time
they've hit the 50-win plateau since 1992-93. Also, Cleveland's
Mike Brown became the first rookie coach to win 50 games since Rick
Carlisle did it for Detroit in 2001-02.
But those record-book notations didn't overshadow something much
more important: The Cavaliers will face the Washington Wizards in
Game 1 on Saturday.
"We had our ups and down this year," Marshall said. "We had
our share of injuries and tough times, but to come out with 50 wins
On Fan Appreciation Night, the Cavaliers handed out free
T-shirts, jerseys, plane tickets, cash, sneakers and pizzas. They
nearly gave away a victory, too.
They led by 14 points entering the fourth quarter, but the Hawks
never stopped scrapping and got within 100-99 on Josh Smith's
3-pointer with 7.0 seconds left. Marshall missed two free throws to
give Atlanta a final chance, but Smith's 3 just before the buzzer
hit the back of the rim.
"We were in games like this all year," Atlanta coach Mike
Woodson said. "We never quit."
Smith had 21 points -- including a ferocious slam in the fourth --
and Al Harrington 16 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta, which
As a precaution, James didn't dress for the third time in four
games because of a tender left ankle he rolled last week. Brown
didn't want to take any chances with his young superstar, who made
history even while on the bench.
James finished the regular season averaging 31.4 points, 7.0
rebounds and 6.6 assists to join Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and
Michael Jordan as the only players in league history to get 31-7-6
in a season.
Not wanting to risk re-injuring his ankle on the eve of his
first trip to the postseason as a pro, James watched intently and
nervously chewed on his nails as the Hawks rallied in the fourth
quarter. He had good company on the sideline as Larry Hughes, too,
got the night off.
"It's good going in on a high note but if we would have lost I
imagine our focus would be the same," said Brown, who rested most
of his starters. "We still have a tough time ahead of us. That's a
talented Wizards team."
Washington won three of four against Cleveland this season.
The Cavaliers played the first quarter and the early part of the
second as if they were in an exhibition game in October. But
trailing 37-25, Cleveland reeled off 14 straight points and took
its first lead on a dunk by Ilgauskas.
The Cavs closed the half on a 24-6 tear to take a 49-43 lead at
With James and Hughes in street clothes, Brown had to improvise
and started Ira Newble for just the third time this season.
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert remains confident he'll be able
to sign James to a contract extension this summer. "If we do the
right things continually, I don't see any reason why that won't
happen," Gilbert said. In August, the Cavs can offer James a
five-year, $75 million "maximum" contract. ... In his last five
games, Smith averaged 19.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and
3.2 blocks. ... The Cavaliers, who have won 11 in a row at home,
finished 42-40 last season and just missed the playoffs when they
collapsed down the stretch. ... Hawks G Royal Ivey sat out with
bronchitis. ... R&B superstar Usher, who has maintained a low
profile as a minority owner with the Cavs this season, attended his
third home game and sat courtside. ... James was serenaded with
chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" in the fourth quarter.