Cavaliers 93, Bucks 89

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CLEVELAND (AP)—LeBron James yanked off his game jersey, kicked off his sneakers and walked to midcourt in his socks to hand the items over to some lucky fans.

A few minutes earlier, James had given the home crowd another night to savor—and even more to look forward to.

“I didn’t want to go out like that, losing the last home game,” James said.

Cleveland’s sensational rookie scored 27 points as the Cavaliers won their home finale, 93-89 over Milwaukee on Monday night, denying the Bucks a chance to move closer to gaining home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Bucks (41-40), who had their opportunities down the stretch, have one game remaining against Toronto. The Bucks would win a tiebreaker over Miami (41-40) but not over New Orleans (40-41), which lost to New York.

“This hurts,” Keith Van Horn said. “It was in our hands and we lost that opportunity. Now we’ve got to go out and win and hope the others lose.”

James’ breakaway dunk with 1:06 to go put the Cavaliers ahead to stay, 88-87. After Michael Redd missed two shots, Jeff McInnis hit a jumper and James made a free throw to give Cleveland a 91-87 lead.

Van Horn’s layup cut it to two with 11.7 seconds to play.

Forced to foul, the Bucks put Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the line and the Cavs’ 7-foot-3 center made both tries for a 93-89 lead with 10.6 seconds left.

Milwaukee’s final shot clanged off the rim and was ripped down with one arm by James, who added nine assists and seven rebounds in front of 20,562 fans— the 16th sellout crowd this season at Gund Arena.

The Gund was one of the quietest and emptiest buildings in the league before James’ arrival. But those days are over for the Cavaliers (34-47), who have doubled their win total from last season despite falling from playoff contention with a recent losing streak.

“Coming in we didn’t really have a (win) total,” Silas said. “But doubling our total from last season sends a message that we are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the future.”

Cleveland’s jump in average home attendance—nearly 60 percent—is the largest since the league began tracking it in 1981.

“It’s a great start for me and the wine-and-gold,” James told the crowd afterward.

Ilgauskas added 18 points and 14 rebounds, Carlos Boozer had 18 points, and McInnis had 14 points and seven assists. Cleveland finished 23-18 at home, the Cavs’ most victories since winning 27 at the Gund in 1997-98.

Next season can’t get here fast enough for Cleveland.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t make the playoffs next season,” Boozer said. “We had five or seven games that we probably should have won this year. We probably could have had 40 wins.”

Desmond Mason had 25 points—21 in the first half—and Van Horn 15 for the Bucks, who went more than six minutes in the fourth quarter without a field goal.

Redd, who averaged 24.6 points in his previous five games, finished with 12. Milwaukee did a poor job of preventing James from sneaking behind their defense for dunks.

Cleveland had 26 points on fast breaks.

“We can’t let that happen,” Redd said. “That killed us.”

With Mason leading the charge, the Bucks ripped off a 20-3 spurt in a five-minute span of the second quarter and opened a 50-45 lead at the half.

Mason had 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the first 24minutes. But he went just 1-for-9 from the floor after halftime.

Notes

Boozer is guaranteed to average a double-double (points-rebounds) this season, making him the first Cavalier to do so since Tyrone Hill in 1994-95. … Several players from the Minnesota Twins, as well as Indians C.C. Sabathia and Matt Lawton, came over following Cleveland’s 6-2 win in the home opener at Jacobs Field. … Silas thanked the Gund Arena crowd before the game. “We knocked on the door this year, and we hope you’ll all be back next year for some more fun,” said Silas. … The Cavs close out the season on Wednesday inNew York.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Milwaukee
D. Mason D. Mason
9-21,  25 Pts
11 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Cleveland
L. James L. James
9-20,  27 Pts
7 Rebs, 9 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists