CLEVELAND — In the first NBA game of his life, D.J. Kennedy led the Cavaliers in scoring and minutes played.
That says all that needs to be said about Cleveland’s approach in a 96-85 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
In his team’s final home game of the season, coach Byron Scott used soon-to-be NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving for only the first 10 minutes and no starter played more than 23.
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“I got to see what I wanted to see,” Scott said. “I brought in a lot of young guys and let them play a lot of minutes.”
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Kennedy, a 22-year-old swingman from St. John’s, was one of those guys.
Signed for the rest of the season last week when Lester Hudson left for Memphis, Kennedy played 31 minutes and led the Cavs with 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. The left-hander added six rebounds, three assists, two steals, five fouls and three turnovers.
Antawn Jamison, who played 17 minutes, was the only other Cleveland player to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points in what looked more like an exhibition game than a regular-season contest.
Irving, who missed nine straight games late in the season with a sprained right shoulder, had five points. Although he said after the game he’s 100 percent healthy, he won’t play tonight when the Cavs conclude the season in Chicago.
“It’s a preventative reason more than anything,” Scott said.
The 20-year-old Irving, who missed the team’s shootaround Wednesday morning because he was ill, wanted to play against the Wizards because it was Fan Appreciation Night.
“Win or lose, they’re the best fans in the world,” he said on a night when attendance was announced at 18,086. “You can’t come up with the words to thank them enough.”
Cleveland concluded the season 11-22 at home and is now 21-44 overall, while Washington, which is locked into finishing with the second-worst record in the league, won for the fifth straight time to improve to 19-46.
The loss kept alive the Cavs’ hopes of finishing with the third-worst record in the league, though they’ll end in a three-way tie with New Orleans and Sacramento if all three lose their season finales tonight.
If that happens, the lottery chances for the third-, fourth- and fifth-worst clubs would be added up, then divided equally among the three teams. That would give each a 12.1 percent chance of landing the first pick, a 12.67 percent chance of getting the second pick and a 13.2 percent chance of getting the third pick.
(If none of the three teams moves up in the May 30 lottery, a drawing will be held, reportedly Friday, to determine their order of selection in the first and second rounds of the June 28 NBA Draft.)
As a means of comparison, if one of the three teams finishes alone with the third-worst record, it would have a 15.6 percent chance of getting the top pick, a 15.7 percent chance of getting No. 2 and a 15.6 percent chance at No. 3.
“I don’t listen to the Ping-Pong ball talk and all that,” Scott said. “I just try to go out and coach to the best of my ability.”
Against the Wizards, who got 21 points, seven rebounds, 13 assists, seven steals and six turnovers from point guard John Wall, that meant giving everybody a chance.
All 12 Cleveland players in uniform scored, with 11 getting into the book in the first half. No Cavs starter played in the second quarter, when Cleveland was outscored 28-18 and fell behind for good.
The game was likely the last in a Cavs uniform for the 35-year-old Jamison, who is expected to move on through free agency, and 36-year-old Anthony Parker, who is expected to retire.
“Both those guys are unbelievable professional basketball players,” Scott said. “And they’re great people. They did everything you asked them to do.
“If it is their last (home) game, I can’t tell them how much I appreciate everything they’ve done.”
Scott was equally complimentary of the fans, though actual attendance Wednesday was closer to 12,000.
“Our fans have been unbelievable,” he said. “Almost every arena we go to, you stand there for the national anthem and you look around and see some of the (small) crowds. Then we come home and see our crowd and I just shake my head.
“It kind of boggles your mind at times. It makes me want to work harder to make sure we get a winner here again, and we will.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.