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NBA Cavaliers top Raptors to tie for worst record



Published: Thu, April 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



It may have been the last game for legendary coach Lenny Wilkens.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Darius Miles celebrated the end of his first season in Cleveland by signing eight pairs of sneakers, and tossing them into the crowd following the game.

By winning their season finale, the Cavaliers may have thrown away something much more valuable -- 25 Ping-Pong balls.

Rookie Tierre Brown had 16 points and nine assists to lead the Cavs to a 96-86 win over Toronto on Wednesday night, in what was likely coach Lenny Wilkens' final game with the Raptors.

The Cavaliers (17-65) finished the season tied with the Denver Nuggets for the NBA's worst record. The teams will have the most Ping-Pong balls -- 225 out of 1,000 -- in the May 22 lottery, and therefore the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick, expected to be Akron high school star LeBron James.

Had they lost, the Cavs would have had 250 chances to get James.

Winning finish

"We had a tough season and it was good they got a chance to win and get the feel of victory," said Cleveland interim coach Keith Smart. "They get to go home this summer glad they won their last game."

Smart went 9-31 after replacing John Lucas, who was fired in January.

Wilkens probably won't last the week.

The 65-year-old Wilkens is expected to be fired by Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald.

"It's been a tough year and the season is over and now we've got to move on and decide what we are going to do," Wilkens said.

Wilkens was reluctant to address questions about whether it was his last game.

"We'll find out soon," he said. "I don't have any emotions right now, OK? We'll deal with that when it comes to that."

Wilkens rarely had a full roster to work with as the Raptors were ravaged by injuries. Vince Carter missed nearly half the season with knee and ankle injuries.

Toronto, which didn't dress 12 players for any game this season, lost its last eight and finished with its worst record since 1997-98 when the Raptors went 16-66.

Raptors guard Morris Peterson said Wilkens handled the adversity the best he could.

"I think it's unfair on how everything came down on him," Peterson said. "I think under the circumstances he did a good job. He's a Hall of Fame player and coach and he knows what to do. Losing a guy like him is a great loss, you lose a legend."

Rafer Alston scored a career-high 23 points and Chris Jefferies had 13 for Toronto, which because of the injuries dressed just eight players for its final four games.

Davis sidelined

The Cavs, who unveiled a new logo, colors and uniforms for next season, played without leading scorer Ricky Davis, who sprained an ankle in Monday's loss at Detroit.

However, Brown and Smush Parker (17 points) picked up the scoring slack for the Cavs, who led 83-79 with four minutes left.

Chris Mihm scored on a dunk, Brown hit a jumper and Cleveland pushed its lead back to 91-81 with two minutes remaining.

Alston's 3-pointer closed Toronto within seven before Brown, who signed with Cleveland midway through the year after playing in the NBDL, converted a three-point play to put the Cavs up by 10 with 1:12 left.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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