Cavaliers Fall in Season Finale

Bulls Surge Past Cavs to Close 2011-12 Season
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

The Cavaliers threw the first punches on Thursday night in the Windy City. But the Bulls – now officially the best regular season team in the NBA – are currently in a different weight class.

The Wine and Gold were within a point at the end of one quarter, but Chicago began pulling away in the second quarter. The young Cavaliers were down a baker’s dozen at intermission and trailed by as many as 22 in the second half – closing out the 2011-12 campaign with a 107-75 loss at the United Center.

Kyrie Irving, who played sparingly in Cleveland’s final home game on Wednesday night, dressed but didn’t see action in the Second City finale. His rookie classmate, Tristan Thompson, closed out his first season in style.

Thompson led the Wine and Gold in both scoring and rebounding: tallying 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting and grabbing a game-high 12 boards – six off the offensive glass. In his 30 minutes of action, Thompson was the most energetic player on the floor.

The Bulls, playing without the reigning MVP Derrick Rose as well as Luol Deng, still flexed their muscles on Thursday night, wrapping up the league’s best mark and homecourt throughout the playoffs in the process.

The Bulls shot 53 percent from the floor while holding the Cavaliers to just 32. Cleveland shot 15 percent from beyond the arc and were out-rebounded, 60-38. On the plus side, the Cavaliers committed only seven turnovers.

Three Cavs netted a dozen points apiece – Antawn Jamison, Donald Sloan and Luke Harangody.

Jamison went 4-for-18 from the floor to go with seven boards in what could’ve been his final game as a Cavalier. Sloan added a pair of assists, a steal and a blocked shot and Harangody was 4-of-6 from the field coming off Byron Scott’s bench.

“I commend the guys for coming in the way they did and competing all this year,” said Jamison. “We have a lot of young guys that have learned a lot and know how to work and get it done for the future.”

The Cavaliers close out the lockout-shortened campaign at 21-45, but with a pair of extremely promising rookies as their foundation – and a bounty of draft picks – moving forward. On Friday, players will gather to say their goodbyes, get a bit of time off, and return to the Cleveland Clinic Courts to prepare for 2012-13 in earnest.

“It was a tough year, but I'm impressed with a lot of positive we have and I'm excited about the future,” said Coach Byron Scott. “Our first order of business will be so meet with all the players, you guys (press), and then relax and get reacquainted with our families. Then we’ll come back and discuss what needs to be done.”

  • Even though the Cavaliers have struggled since the Break, they still had the fourth-highest jump in record from last season to this one – jumping .091 percentage points. The Clippers made the biggest leap (+.216) followed by the Timberwolves, Pacers and Cavs.

  • Despite dropping the finale in Chicago, the Cavs also saw a drastic improvement in their road mark. One year ago, they finished 7-34 away from The Q (.170) but improved to 10-23 (.303) this year – chalking up road wins over Boston, Phoenix, Denver and Oklahoma City,

  • At age 35, Antawn Jamison became the oldest player to ever lead the Cavaliers in points for a season. World B. Free led them at age 30, 31 and 32 in the mid-80s. Shawn Kemp was 30 when he did so in 1999-00.

  • Kyrie Irving was one of three former Blue Devils suited up on Thursday in Chicago and is the third-leading rookie scorer out of Duke all-time. Irving averaged 18.5 as a freshman, trailing only Elton Brand (20.1) and Grant Hill (19.9).

  • Antawn Jamison finished the season just three points shy of passing Bob Lanier for 43rd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

  • Tristan Thompson notched his ninth double-double of the season on Thursday. In those games, the No. 4 overall pick averaged 15.0 points and 11.7 boards and 1.2 blocks in those contests.