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From a basketball standpoint, Fan Appreciation Nights aren’t always the most memorable matchups.
It’s awesome for the fans, who get plenty of free stuff – including, for some, the players’ shirts off their back and shoes off their feet. Whatever the regular season record was and wherever the team is going next is of little concern on that night – an evening for the team and organization to pay it back to the people who truly make things go.
With the COVID-19 lockdown interrupting what would have undoubtedly been another excellent Fan App Night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the Cavaliers are celebrating this year’s festivities virtually – and you can get a ton of details HERE.
Now back to that basketball standpoint …
Only once over the past 10 years has the actual game played on Fan App Night mattered in the standings – and even that night, barely so. But that’s not to say that the Cavs haven’t had their share of interesting ballgames to wrap up the regular season’s home schedule.
If you want to see just how much the franchise has changed over a decade, here are some highlights from the last 10 Fan Appreciation Night matchups in Cleveland …
Like the home game before it, last year’s Fan App Night was a celebration of Channing Frye, who called it a career after 13 seasons – winning a World Championship with the Wine & Gold in 2016.
The celebration was nice; the game: not so much – as the Cavaliers dropped their 10th straight to end the season in what would be the final game under the gym’s former name, Quicken Loans Arena.
Frye came up big in his career finale, finishing with 10 points in the final quarter, going 3-of-5 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long-range – each field goal driving the bench and the sold-out crowd into a frenzy.
Frye led five Cavaliers in double-figures – with rookie Collin Sexton leading the way with 18 points on 8-for-17 shooting to go with a career-high 10 assists, getting his final dime on the final three-pointer of Channing’s career, a 27-foot bomb with 35 seconds to play.
The Cavaliers were just looking to stay healthy going into their fourth straight postseason run in their home finale against the Knicks – a loss that locked them into the 4th seed in the East.
The game’s only question was whether LeBron James – playing in his 82nd game for the first time in his 15-year career – would extend his NBA record of consecutive double-figure performances to 873 games.
He put that to rest early, notching his 10th point 11 minutes into the affair and taking the rest of the night to rest up for what would be his eighth straight Finals appearance.
With most of Tyronn Lue’s regulars taking the night off, the squad’s leading scorers were John Holland (21pts), Ante Zizic (20) and Cedi Osman (18). Other than Osman, no Cavalier starter logged much time. J.R. Smith, Jose Calderon and Jordan Clarkson each played less than seven minutes off the bench while Kevin Love, Kyle Korver and Rodney Hood were all inactive.
The Cavs would go on to face the Pacers – who they’d dropped three-of-four against that season.
Cleveland rested its starters – including the Big Three: LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving – and dropped its fourth straight to end the season, a close loss to the Raptors, who the Cavaliers would bludgeon two weeks later in a Second Round matchup.
The Cavaliers, who were set to face the Pacers in the First Round, got meager contributions on the offensive end – with Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Deron Williams leading the way. The star of that season’s Fan App Night came on the defensive end.
Edy Tavares – a 7-3 center who was inked earlier in the day when the Cavs released Larry Sanders – went 3-of-4 from the floor to finish with six points, a team-high 10 boards and a jaw-dropping six blocked shots in just 24 minutes of work.
The six blocks were the most since Big Z swatted seven against Utah in mid-November of 2007 and was one shy of tying Larry Nance for the most (7) in a single half.
The Cavs and Pistons had a First Round postseason date and, facing each other in the finale, neither had any intentions of showing their cards – (or starters). Only Tristan Thompson, playing in his 370th straight game, saw action.
But despite the lack of star-power, that season’s Fan App Night turned out to be of the most entertaining games of the season – with the Wine & Gold going on a furious fourth-quarter rally before finally relenting in overtime – 112-110.
Jordan McCrae, who joined the team on a 10-day contract in late February, led all scorers with 36 points – including the game-tying trey with 14.6 to play in regulation. The former Tennessee standout – who hit all three shot attempts later that June in the Finals – went 14-for-29 from the floor, 3-of-5 from long-range and 5-of-8 from the stripe.
Unfortunately for McRae, two of his three misses from the stripe came with 0.9 to play in overtime after being fouled on a three-point attempt by Detroit’s Stanley Johnson. But it was tough to fault him for the late misses, having logged 46 minutes the previous night in the Canton Charge’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to Sioux Falls.
Both the Playoff-bound Cavaliers and Wizards rested most of their regulars for most of the game, with LeBron James getting the entire night off and the other four starters playing sparingly, but it still turned out to be one of that year’s most exciting games.
The most memorable image of that night came from a veteran reserve in the overtime victory.
Shawn Marion – playing in the final regular season contest of his brilliant career – punctuated the win with a steal and breakaway dunk that caused his teammates to mob him in the game’s closing seconds.
Afterwards, his head coach made a case for the Matrix in Springfield, Mass. “That’s a deserving, long-time, high-level, championship-winning, impactful player in the NBA,” praised David Blatt. “To make a play like that at the end of the game, whether it was the most important game or not, it just shows you what kind of special qualities that guy has.”
If the first few Fan App Night recaps haven’t convinced you how much things have changed – here’s this year’s …
The Cavaliers closed an up-and-down season by demolishing the Brooklyn Nets – who were resting starters Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. Tyler Zeller led the Wine & Gold with 22 points and 11 boards while Dion Waiters finished with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson all finished with double-figures.
The Cavaliers draft picks that previous June – Anthony Bennett, the top overall pick, and Carrick Felix, in his first game back since early January, were a combined 7-of-12 from the floor.
”I’m very proud of all of our guys, I’m proud of the way that they played on both ends of the floor,” said Coach Mike Brown. “To end on a high note, especially on a night like this when it’s Fan Appreciation Night, because these last couple of games, you look up in the stands and our building is full. You really appreciate the fans and people here in Cleveland. They’re like no other. I experienced it when I was here before and it’s the same thing now.”
The Cavaliers wrapped up another frustrating season with a frustrating loss on Fan App Night in the finale – dropping a heartbreaker to the World Champion Heat, which rested its Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Adding insult to injury, it was Cleveland State product – reserve guard Norris Cole – who sealed the deal, picking Kyrie Irving clean at mid-court and dribbling out the clock. Cole finished one assist shy of a triple-double.
“Just be patient,” Irving said to fans that night. “The guys are on the right track. A tough season for all of us and all that happened, but we feel we are still on the right track.”
He didn’t know how right he was.
As long as we’re blasting from the past, the star of this particular season’s Fan App Night was D.J. Kennedy, who led the Cavaliers in scoring in the first of his two career games as an NBA player. He was the 13th different player to lead Cleveland in scoring that year.
In the double-digit loss to John Wall’s Wizards, Kyrie Irving – that year’s eventual Rookie of the Year – played just 10 minutes after suffering from gastroenteritis earlier in the day. “(The fans) have been supportive no matter – if it was back-to-back games at home, win or lose,” said Irving. “They’ve been the best fans in the world. I can’t find the words to thank them enough.”
The trio of Kennedy, Samardo Samuels and Luke Walton were a combined 12-of-15 off the bench. The trio of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joe Haden and Bernie Kosar were on hand to watch.
Byron Scott’s Cavs closed out a rough season in style – dropping the Wizards by a touchdown in an emotional win on Fan App Night for their 19th win of the campaign.
Cleveland was led by Ramon Sessions’ 27 points – nine of which he scored in the final six minutes to cap the comeback after Luke Harangody’s three-pointer helped regain the lead.
J.J. Hickson doubled-up with 15 points and 13 boards and Daniel Gibson notched double-figures off the bench.
“When it comes to the support of their team, there’s no city that’s better,” praised Booby. “They’re always in our corner, regardless of how many games we win or whatever. They are always going to fight for us and that’s why we are always going to play as hard as we have and we will this upcoming season.”
That night, the Cavaliers also closed the book on an unprecedented era in franchise history as Joe Tait called his last game.
The 39-year “Voice of the Cavaliers” and recent Hall of Fame inductee called the 3,382nd game of his illustrious career before calling it quits. During the game’s final seconds, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played as fans gave Joe a standing ovation.
The Cavaliers dropped their third straight game before heading into the postseason for a date with Joakim Noah and the Bulls in the First Round – resting LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Mo Williams and shelving Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison in the second half.
Cleveland fell to Dwight Howard and the reigning Eastern Conference Champs, but kept it close with most of their starters taking the night off. Jamario Moon notched double-figures in his second straight start and Delonte West led the Cavaliers with 21 points off the bench – going 7-for-12 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the stripe.
The Cavs – who dropped their finale on the road in Atlanta – wrapped up their second straight 60-win season, but their four-game skid was their longest since 2007 and would turn out to be a harbinger of that spring’s playoff run. Cleveland finished 2-4 in the month of April and the 26-point deficit against Atlanta was their biggest all season.
The Cavaliers would go on to beat the Bulls in five games in the First Round, but struggled against Boston in six.
Little did that team’s leader and an army of crazed Cleveland fans know what lied ahead.