Cavaliers drop regular season finale 120-110  
            BY TIM SHIRER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34, 26-15 home) clinched a playoff spot on Friday night with their 129-120 win over the visiting Indiana Pacers. On Sunday the Cavs finished the regular season against the Charlotte Hornets (21-61, 10-31 away) at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on fan appreciation day.

The Cavs and Hornets have split the season series one game apiece, both games were in Charlotte. The Hornets recorded the win in the last meeting on March 27th 118-111. The Cavs held the edge in the Cavs hold the all-time series lead 75-50 and are 47-15 in Cleveland (Richfield Coliseum, RMFH) entering the game. The Hornets put a dent in the Cavs all-times series lead in Cleveland as they came out on top with the win 120-110.

The first 5:36 of the first quarter were pretty much back and forth with the Cavs taking a 15-13 lead on a three from the corner by Isaac Okoro. Neither team had their regular starting five. The Hornets were without several starters including rookie lottery pick Brandon Miller. The Cavs were without starters Donovan Mitchell (knee), Darius Garland (back) and sixth man of the year candidate Caris LeVert (knee) also Dean Wade (knee) and Sam Merrill (neck) did not suit up for Cleveland. The three by Okoro 12-0 run by the Cavs capped off by a hook shot by Jarrett Allen giving the Cavs a 24-13 lead with 4:18 left on the clock in the first quarter. A blow to the Cavs heading into the playoffs occurred with 2:18 left in the quarter when Craig Porter, Jr who started suffered a left ankle sprain and was helped off the court to the locker room and did not return. The Cavs’ lead grew to 31-21 on three pointer by Georges Niang with 1:34 left. When the quarter ended the Cavs, lead was 33-24. Max Strus led all scorers after one with nine points, Allen had eight. Leaky Black and JT Thor paced the Hornet with five points each. The Cavs led on the boards after one 16-13 and points in the paint 14-6.

​The Cavs on the floor to start the second quarter were Isaac Okoro, Georges Niang, Emoni Bates, Marcus Morris, Sr. and Tristan Thompson. The Hornets were outmanned even with the Cavs playing the back end of their bench and it was apparent in the second quarter. The Cavs took a 44-33 with 8:29 left when Bates hit a three on a nice pass from Strus. The Hornets however did cut the lead to 44-41 on a three pointer from Tre Mann on a pass from Black with 7:09 left in the first half. The Hornets cut the Cavs lead to 46-45 with 4:42 left on a layup by Thor. The Hornets tied the game 48-48 with 4:06 left on a three pointer by Nick Smith, Jr. The Cavs regained the lead with 3:46 left when Strus drained a three giving the Cavs a 51-48 advantage. After the Hornets tied the score 53-53 the Cavs again took the lead 56-53 on a three by Niang with 2:10 left in the half. The Cavs held a 58-57 lead at the break. Strus and Niang led all scorers in the first half with 11 points apiece. Allen also had 10 points for Cleveland and six boards to lead everyone on the boards. Thor led the Hornets with nine first half points. Strus had seven first half assists with all four of the Cavs point guards out injured or resting. The Hornets outrebounded the Cavs of the boards 13-7 in the second period to hold a 26-23 lead at the break. The Cavs lead points in the paint 24-18.

The Hornets took a 59-58 lead just :16 into the third quarter on a hook shot by Marques Bolden. The Cavs quickly regained the advantage and the two teams traded baskets for the next several minutes until Okoro hit a three with 9:21 left in the third to give Cleveland a 68-65 lead. The Cavs’ lead grew to 74-67 with 8:07 left when Niang dropped another three, his fourth of the game to that point. The Hornets cut the Cavs lead to 84-82 with 4:15 left on a jumper by Bolden. The Cavs responded two possessions later with a three by Isaiah Mobley on a brotherly assist from Evan to give the Cavs an 87-82 lead. Two possessions later Isaiah stole the ball and went the length of the court for a dunk increasing the Cavs lead to 91-84 with 2:17 left on the clock. The Cavs advantage grew to double digits again at 96-86 when Okoro drained a three with :36 left in the third quarter. The quarter ended with the Cavs on top 96-88. Thor led everyone in scoring with 17 points through three quarters. Niang led the Cavs with 16. The Hornets continued to win the battle of the boards 33-32 and the Cavs were still dominating the paint 42-36.

Early in the fourth it seemed the Cavs wanted to leave no doubt and extended their lead to 101-88 with 10:55 left when Isaiah put back a Damian Jones miss. The scrappy Hornets had nothing to play for but were not going away easy as they cut the Cleveland lead to 106-100 with 8:41 left when Smith dropped a three. With 6:45 left Strus picked up his tenth rebound of the game to complete a triple double, Isaiah scored six seconds later to give the Cavs a 108-102 lead and Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff called a timeout. Strus’s teams celebrated his feat with him as he returned to the bench. The Hornets pulled to within three at 108-105 with 5:34 left when Smith drained a three. Charlotte took the lead at the 3:37 110-108 with a three pointer from Smith and never trailed again, winning coach Steve Clifford’s final game with the Hornets 120-110.

Charlotte’s Smith led all scorers with 24 points, Thor also had 20 for the Hornets. Niang led the Cavs with 16 in a losing effort. The Cavs had six players in double figures including Isaiah Mobley who finished with 11.  

The Cavs will face the Orlando Magic in the first round. The Magic will be the fifth seed and the Cavs will have home court advantage as the fourth seed. Game one of the series could be either Saturday (April 20) or Sunday (April 21) of next week and it will be in Cleveland. 
Follow us on Twitter @SportsSentinel Check out our Cavaliers fan page Taitville 
​POSTED 04/14/2024 15:28 Updated 16:27
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Lake County Sentinel
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Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen scores two of his 14 points.                                                                                                                                    Photo by Tommy Shirer