CLEVELAND (AP) — Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd sat his starters for the playoffs and the Nets closed the regular season with a 114-85 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Although the Nets could have clinched the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 spot with a win, Kidd elected to rest Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston, who spent the night on the bench as the world’s highest-paid cheerleading squad. Kidd also limited the minutes of key reserves and used only seven players.
With Washington’s win at Boston, the Nets finished tied with the Wizards but lost the tiebreaker and will be the No. 6 seed. Brooklyn will face Toronto in the first round. The Nets and Raptors split four games during the season.
“I like right where we are,” Kidd said. “A good place.”
Tyler Zeller scored 22 points with 11 rebounds and Dion Waiters scored 19 for the Cavaliers, who finished a disappointing 33-49 in coach Mike Brown’s first season back and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. All-Star Kyrie Irving scored 15.
Marcus Thornton and Andray Blatche scored 20 apiece for Brooklyn.
Before the game, a defensive Kidd dismissed the notion the Nets were “tanking” down the stretch so they wouldn’t have to play Chicago in the first round. Brooklyn lost to the Bulls in the first round last year.
“I don’t catch everybody what they say or write,” Kidd said, ending any further discussion on the subject.
He had hinted about not playing his regulars following Tuesday night’s home loss to New York.
Kidd started Thornton, Blatche, Jorge Gutierrez, Marquis Teague and Jason Collins – a group that had made a combined seven starts. It was the first start with Brooklyn for Collins, the league’s first openly gay player.
Leading by two at half, the Cavs opened the third quarter with an 11- 2 run to take control and handed Brooklyn its fourth loss in five games.
Spencer Hawes hit a 3-pointer to key the run as Cleveland opened a 62-51 lead. Irving later scored on four consecutive possessions as the Cavs pushed their lead to 17.
The Cavaliers showed better effort than in recent losses to Milwaukee and Boston, uninspired performances that brought Brown’s future into question. Brown described the first year of second stint in Cleveland as “challenging.”
The Cavs endured injuries, inconsistency and the firing of general manager Chris Grant, dismissed one day after an embarrassing loss to a Lakers team that finished the game with just five players.
Brown expects to meet with owner Dan Gilbert in the next few days to discuss what went wrong and what will happen next. Also, Gilbert has to decide whether to retain interim GM David Griffin.
Cleveland’s biggest offseason decision will be whether to offer Irving a maximum contract extension. The All-Star point guard showed growth, but he and Waiters didn’t always get along.
Gilbert had promised his team would not be back in the draft lottery, but the Cavs will once again be hoping for the lucky bounce of some pingpong balls to improve their draft position.
There were a few positives in Cleveland’s finale. Rookie Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick last year, played for the first time since March 8 and had an impressive dunk. Also, rookie Carrick Felix returned after missing 38 games with a broken kneecap.
NOTES: The Nets ended 2013 at 10-21, but went 34-17 the rest of the way. … Before tip-off, Cavs F Luol Deng was presented with the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given annually by the Pro Basketball Writers Association for exemplary community service. Deng missed Cleveland’s last three games with a sore back. He’s an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return. … Deron Williams averaged 14.3 points, his lowest since his rookie season (10.8) in 2005-06. … Several Browns players, including Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas, Josh Gordon, Joe Haden and Jordan Cameron attended the game.