ATLANTA (AP) — In what passed for nothing more than an exhibition game, rookie Jeff Teague set career highs with 24 points and 15 assists and the Atlanta Hawks cruised past the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers 99-83 in a regular-season finale Wednesday night that had 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.
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.
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.
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).
The Hawks made their first nine shots of the third quarter to pull away from a 48-46 halftime lead, actually getting the crowd into it with some high-flying dunks.
Slicing in off the baseline, West took a pass from Maurice Evans and unleashed a thunderous slam over Jamario Moon that brought the Hawks starters out of their slumber on the bench. Then, after a Cleveland turnover, Teague took off the other way for another jam.
There was plenty of sloppy play, too. 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. This time, the teams can't meet unless they both make it all the way to the conference finals.
The Cavaliers went on cruise control after locking up the No. 1 seed in the East and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, closing the regular season with four straight losses — all with James on the bench, resting up for what he hopes will be a run to his first NBA title.
Atlanta was assured of being the No. 3 seed after Boston lost at Chicago on Tuesday, giving coach Mike 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 only in case they were needed in an emergency.
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.