If tonight's game was a tune-up for the playoffs, the oil change was forgotten and the tires, for sure, were not rotated. But the wiper fluid was topped off, and now the Playoff Limited is (finally) ready to pull out and hit the streets.
It is to be hoped that it is street-ready.
A team that actually was in a ballgame at halftime, down by only two, mailed in the second half and lost, convincingly, to the Atlanta Hawks in the final regular season game, 99-83, a score that was not indicative of how bad it got after the intermission. Atlanta, after leading at one time by 25 points, let their foot off the gas in the final few minutes, when the damage was long done.
The best that can be said is that the Cavaliers were without LeBron James, Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, and Shaquille O'Neal, but that was offset by Atlanta not playing any of their four "best" players. Also, all ten Cavs who played scored, led by Jamario Moon's 15, and J.J Hickson's 14. But an old and unwelcome friend made an appearance tonight: after going five-for-five at the line in the first quarter, the Cavs went 15 for 31 the rest of the game from the stripe for a cool 48%. All the signs pointed to a less-than-high-level practice that has finally run its course.
There is no need to dissect this loss further. It was what it was, an uninterested team which probably spent a lot of time watching the scoreboard to see who its first-round opponent will be. That first-round opponent turns out to be the Chicago Bulls, who did what they had to do, both last night against Boston and again tonight in Charlotte.
Now to leave the greasy floor of the garage that these last four games turned out to be, and instead of worrying about what has recently been, it is time to celebrate the second-most successful regular season in the Cavaliers' history...and to focus on what lies ahead. The 61-21 record, while five games worse than last year, is still four games better than the third-best record this franchise has put up in its 40 years.
Much will be said and written about the Bulls in the next few days. The time for those things to be said and written begins tomorrow. For tonight...adieu, regular season...I am more than thrilled, after this past week, to see you gone.