The Cleveland Cavaliers lost an NBA-record 26 consecutive games earlier this season. But by closing with a victory over the Washington Wizards, they wouldn’t even finish with the league’s worst record.
That, however, would give them less of a chance to wind up with the No. 1 pick in the June draft, potentially leaving mixed emotions for the Cavaliers as they wrap up a lost season Wednesday night against the visiting Wizards.
Two months ago, Cleveland (18-63) seemed to be an absolute lock to have the most ping-pong balls in May’s draft lottery after its record losing streak put it 5 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the league’s basement.
Heading into the final night of the season, though, the Cavaliers no longer own the NBA’s worst record. A 110-101 win at Detroit on Monday - their third in five games - combined with the Timberwolves’ overtime loss at Phoenix gave Minnesota the dubious distinction of being the league’s worst team.
“We are hoping to build some momentum going into next season. We have a young core group on this team and it is going to be fun playing with them next season.”
But the downside to finishing strong would be fewer lottery balls. Unless the Cavaliers lose to Washington (23-58) and Minnesota beats Houston, Cleveland’s late surge would reduce its chances of obtaining the No. 1 overall selection with its own pick from 25 percent to 19.9.
It’ll also have a 2.8 percent shot at the top pick thanks to the Clippers, who are guaranteed to finish with the league’s eighth-worst record.
The Wizards will finish with either the NBA’s fourth- or fifth-worst record, where they’ll hope for luck just like what came their way at the 2010 lottery, when they jumped from fifth to earn the right to pick John Wall(notes) at No. 1.
Washington has played pretty well in some largely meaningless games down the stretch even with Rashard Lewis(notes), Nick Young(notes) and Josh Howard(notes) sidelined by injuries. Monday’s 95-94 overtime win against a Boston team resting its four All-Stars was the Wizards’ sixth in nine games.
“We kind of took it as that they was trying to disrespect us and not trying to play the other guys,” said Wall, who had 24 points and has averaged 21.0 over his last six games. “So we wanted to come out and fight.”
Wall has averaged 16.0 points and 12.0 assists in two meetings against Cleveland - one win and one loss - but missed the Cavaliers’ April 1 visit to the Verizon Center. Andray Blatche(notes) had 36 points and 19 boards - including 16 offensive, the most in the NBA since Oct. 31, 1997 - in the Wizards’ 115-107 victory.