Locked into the No. 4 seed of the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams
Cleveland (51-30) has one last tune-up before meeting the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, and the Cavaliers have their best regular-season record since the 2016-17 season. A win over Charlotte (26-55) would seal Cleveland's best regular-season mark since winning the NBA Finals in the 2015-16 campaign
Cleveland carries a three-game winning streak into the finale after taking back-to-back victories at Orlando, the most recent of which was a 118-94 decision on Thursday with a makeshift lineup.
Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert all sat on for the Cavaliers on Thursday, while Danny Green scored 21 points, Cedi Osman had 19 and Isaiah Mobley delivered a career-high 18 to carry the load
Green, a playoff veteran who won championships as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, could figure into the Cavaliers' rotation for the postseason
"It's up to me to earn my minutes and showcase to the coaching staff that I'm able to help and be ready when my number is called," Green said, according to Cleveland.com.
The potential addition of a spark plug with playoff games to his credit could provide a boost to a Cleveland lineup lacking in postseason experience. So, too, should having home-court advantage in the opening round.
"A younger group with a lot of first-time guys in the playoffs, being able to play that first game in the comfort of your own home court with the support of your fans, I think it knocks a little bit of pressure off as opposed to having to open on the road in an adverse situation," Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said
Green and other members of the Cavaliers' reserve unit will get opportunities Sunday to earn rotation minutes for the upcoming playoff series against the Knicks
The Hornets come in on a four-game losing streak after dropping a 112-109 home finale Friday to the Houston Rockets
Charlotte played without primary contributors LaMelo Ball (ankle), Gordon Hayward (thumb), Terry Rozier (foot), Dennis Smith Jr. (toe) and P.J. Washington (ankle), instead featuring a starting five of Theo Maledon, Bryce McGowens, Svi Mykhailiuk, JT Thor and Mark Williams.
Mykhailiuk, who has scored at least 13 points in seven of his past eight games, finished with 25 points against the Rockets, one shy of the career-high he established last Sunday against Toronto.
"Younger players can learn from (late-season playing opportunities)," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said, noting the team's struggles running certain plays and being beaten to spots on the defensive end. "That's what we can practice (Saturday). We can spend some time on that. It's good for them going forward.
Charlotte's woes on the offensive side during its losing skid have resulted in an average of 102.0 points per game -- nine less than the team's season average.
Meanwhile, Cleveland -- the NBA's best scoring defense throughout the regular season at 106.9 points allowed per contest -- has given up 104.0 points per game across its past three wins.
The Cavaliers are set to head into the playoffs as the league's best in terms of field goals allowed at 39.1 a game, second-best in 3-pointers surrendered at 11.3 per game, and second in rebounds given up with 41.1 per contest
--Field Level Media