Ramon Sessions scored 27 points, J.J. Hickson added 15 and the Cleveland Cavaliers closed out one of the worst seasons in franchise history — and first in eight years without LeBron James — by beating the Washington Wizards 100-93 on Wednesday night.
The Cavs finished 19-63, an extreme drop after going a league-best 61-21 during the regular season in 2010 before James bolted as a free agent last summer.
But that didn't matter in the closing seconds as Cleveland fans saluted the Cavs with a rousing ovation. Cleveland won four of its final six games and split its last 12.
Andray Blatche scored 20 and Yi Jianlian had 12 rebounds for the Wizards. Washington's John Wall scored 10 points but played only 24 minutes in the final game of his strong rookie season.
Earlier this week, Cavs coach Byron Scott said he wished his first season in Cleveland was one month longer. While many Clevelanders were thrilled it was almost over, Scott felt his young team was finally coming into its own and he may have been right.
The Cavs played hard down the stretch and avoided finishing with the league's worst record, a distinction that belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Luke Harangody and Christian Eyenga, two players most Cavs fans had never heard of and couldn't have dreamed would have been on the roster when the season began, gave Cleveland an 81-76 lead with 8:27 remaining.
The Wizards fought back and took the lead on a basket by Yi, but Sessions scored five straight points and Anthony Parker drained a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:34 left to seal it for Cleveland.
The Cavs played their season finale without starting point guard Baron Davis. He has been dealing with back spasms almost from the time Cleveland acquired him in a Feb. 24 trade from the Los Angeles Clippers and Scott decided it was too risky to play the 32-year-old.
Cleveland's first season without James was a monumental struggle.
Not long after the two-time defending MVP returned home and embarrassed his former teammates, the Cavs went on an epic losing streak that reached an NBA-record 26 straight games, tying the longest losing skid in professional sports history. During the slide, the Cavs lost by 55 against the Los Angeles Lakers and often played such uninspired, lazy ball that Scott publicly questioned their toughness.
It got tougher when starting center Anderson Varejao and forward Antawn Jamison suffered season-ending injuries.
The Wizards didn't have it much better.
They were beset by injuries, losing forward Josh Howard and guard Nick Young. Washington revamped its roster in December with a blockbuster trade that sent talented but controversial guard Gilbert Arenas to Orlando for forward Rashard Lewis. He was expected to help but played in only 32 games before injuring his right knee.
There's hope ahead as both teams will be in the draft lottery and each currently owns two first-round picks.
NOTES: Wall recently predicted the Wizards will make the playoffs next season. "He's a positive guy," Saunders said. "That's a plus. Our guys understand how we've played lately. If we get guys healthy, we have a couple of high draft picks, we have a lot of cap room, so we can make some great improvement." ... The season finale also was the career ender for Joe Tait, the Cavs' longtime play-by-play announcer who is retiring after 39 seasons. Tait, who was enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame last summer, was honored last week by the Cavaliers with a banner that will permanently hang next to the team's retired numbers. Tait only recently returned after undergoing heart surgery.