Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83

There was absolutely nothing on the line, just a shot at some

playing time for a bunch of guys who rarely get on the court.

Jeff Teague sure took advantage of it.

The Atlanta rookie set career highs with 24 points and 15

assists in what was little more than an exhibition game, leading

the Hawks past the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers 99-83 in

the regular-season finale Wednesday night.

“It was fun,” Teague said.

There was plenty of star power – on the bench.

James finished up his end-of-the-season break, and the Cavaliers

also gave Shaquille O’Neal the night off even though he hasn’t

played since going out Feb. 25 with a sprained right thumb. At the

other end of the court, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford watched in

street clothes; the Hawks played only one regular starter, Marvin

Williams.

Both teams were already locked into their playoff seedings and

saw no reason to risk injury to anyone who might play a key role in

the postseason. So just about every recognizable name watched this

one from the safety of the sideline, cheering on players such as

Atlanta’s Jason Collins and Cleveland’s Jawad Williams.

Most of the suspense came after the game. The Hawks hung around

in the locker room to watch the end of Miami’s double-overtime

victory over New Jersey, which meant third-seeded Atlanta will face

Milwaukee in the opening round of the playoffs instead of Dwyane

Wade and the Heat.

Cleveland will open against the Chicago Bulls, who clinched the

final spot in the East with a win at Charlotte.

For the top-seeded Cavaliers, the season that matters is just

beginning. Cleveland is still smarting from its upset loss to

Orlando in last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

“It’ll be good to play games that mean something,” Zydrunas

Ilgauskas said.

Teague easily surpassed his previous career highs of 13 points

and eight assists. Mario West also had a career-best with 10

points, including a spectacular dunk. Joe Smith had a double-double

with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys,” Hawks coach

Mike Woodson said. “The way the bench stepped up was

fantastic.”

Especially Teague, the Hawks’ first-round draft pick last summer

but used sparingly through most of the regular season.

“I think this shows I can play in this league,” Teague said.

“I hope I can contribute in the playoffs. This game gave the

second unit a lot of confidence.”

Jamario Moon led Cleveland with 15 points but only one teammate,

J.J. Hickson with 14 points, reached double figures. The

pseudo-Cavaliers were particularly inept at the foul line, making

only 20 of 36 attempts.

“We got through it,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.

Collins scored 10 points – surpassing his total for the entire

season. He even attempted his first 3-pointer since the 2007-08

season (and, no, it didn’t go in).

There was plenty of sloppy play. Atlanta’s Randolph Morris

picked up four fouls playing less than 8 minutes in the first half,

then got whistled for two more quick ones in the fourth quarter to

finish off his night, having played just 15 minutes.

If nothing else, the Hawks at least showed their scrubs were

better than Cleveland’s. The Cavaliers had won nine straight in the

series, including a four-game sweep in the second round of last

year’s playoffs.

Atlanta was assured of being the No. 3 seed after Boston lost at

Chicago on Tuesday, giving Woodson a chance to at least rest most

of his regulars for one game. Josh Smith, Al Horford and Mike Bibby

were in uniform but never left the bench.

Notes: The crowd was announced as a sellout of 19,069, though

some fans clearly stayed home after getting word that none of the

big names would be playing. … The Hawks averaged 16,546 this

season, actually down slightly (16,748) from a year ago even though

the team won six more games and finished one spot higher in the

Eastern Conference. … Seven players scored in double figures for

the Hawks. … In addition to James and O’Neal, Cleveland also put

G Daniel Gibson on the inactive list. … The Hawks finished 34-7

at home this season. … Brown said O’Neal will start in the

playoffs despite his long layoff.