By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- The Nets lounged their way into the NBA playoffs.
Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd sat his starters for the season finale and the Nets wound up with the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs following a 114-85 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Although the Nets could have clinched the 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.
Brooklyn’s loss, coupled with Washington’s win at Boston, dropped the Nets into the sixth slot because they lost the tiebreaker with the Wizards. Brooklyn will begin the postseason at Toronto on Saturday. The Nets and Raptors split their four games during the season.
“I like right where we are,” Kidd said. “A good place. We’ve been playing some pretty good basketball of late. We’ve rested and guys have gotten their work in at the same time of healing some of the injuries they’ve had — some nicks and bruises healed. Now it’s time to figure out a way to win a game on the road.”
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 and afterward addressed the likelihood he’ll be offered a contract extension by the club this summer.
“If they do offer me, that it would be exciting and I’ll make the best decision for me and my family,” Irving said. “That’s what it’s going to boil down to for myself. I’ve been a part of this and I want to continue to be part of this. We’re making strides in the right direction, especially in this organization and I want to be part of something special in Cleveland.
“If they do, I don’t have a definitive answer to that right now, but it will be something special.”
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.
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.
Afterward, Kidd said he’s not concerned about the Nets losing four of five heading into the playoffs.
“It’s the playoffs,” he said. “It’s a new season. Everybody’s zero and zero. It’s the first one to four.”
The Cavaliers showed better effort than in recent losses to Milwaukee and Boston, uninspired performances that brought Brown’s future into question.
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.
“Dan gave me this opportunity,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t be sitting in this seat without him. It’s his team and whatever decision he makes with anything I’m going to support.”
Also, Gilbert has to decide whether to retain interim GM David Griffin.
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.
—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.