Jordan > Kobe: Cavs-Pistons, Behind the Box Store

Jordan McRae Cavs-Pistons
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

Detroit Pistons (44-38) 112
Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25) 110
Box Score

EDIT: This headline turned out to be a little off in light of Kobe’s 60-point career finale. But still! Nice game, Jordan McRae.

And with that, despite a scintillating 36-point effort from former 10-day man Jordan McRae, the Cleveland Cavaliers 2015-16 season has come to a close with a 112-110 defeat at the hands of their first-round playoff opponent, the Detroit Pistons.

Wait. What?

Yes, 25-year-old Jordan McRae, who the Cavs signed to a 10-day contract at the end of February, capitalized on the Cavs starters sitting out in a big way. He scored 36 points on 14-of-29 shooting. That’s one point better than his college career high of 35, and he joins LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Ricky Davis, Shawn Kemp, Ron Harper, and World B. Free as the only Cavaliers to attempt at least 29 field goals. McRae played 47 minutes in all, and this was just one night after he played 46 with the Canton Charge in the D-League playoffs.

There’s been a good bit of Jordan-Kobe talk accompanying the latter’s final game. Little did we know that any Jordan would have such a game on Kobe’s last night in the league.

McRae did a little bit of everything. He got to the hoop with a series of herky-jerky drives. He scored on some Kyrie-esque moves in the lane. He hit a few threes. He had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted for most of the night, and the Cavs damn near won because of it.

In a move that surely offended the nation’s broadcasters and beat writers, who wanted little more than to finish up the regular season and get home to their families, McRae sent the game into overtime with a pullup three in the closing moments of regulation. The Cavs bench exploded with glee off the bench, those that stayed at The Q voiced their approval, and it looked like we had a little season-ending miracle on our hands.

Things reached their peak with 0.9 seconds remaining in OT, when McRae drew a three-point foul with the Cavs down by three. Alas, it was then that 93 minutes in the past two days came back to haunt him. He had some cramps down the stretch, was visibly exhausted, and missed two of the three freebies. The one he should have missed — the last, if only to set up a last-ditch offensive rebounding chance — was the one that he made.

And with that, the Cavs season ends with 57 wins against 25 losses. That’s a four-game improvement over last season’s record. Everyone is healthy. LeBron and Kevin Love both shot well in the year’s closing weeks. A playoff date with Detroit — remember what an occasion that once was? — is coming. For one last time, let’s take a look at the numbers. And quickly.

36 — Thirty-six points for Jordan McRae! His full line: 36 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds. (He also had 5 turnovers and had his shot blocked 5 times.) I mean, why not? It’s the last game of the year, the vets just want to rest their legs, and the whole team got excited once he got it going. Starless season enders can be dull as hell, but Mr. McRae made this one fun. Jordan rules, indeed.

0:04 — Tristan Thompson started the game — he was the only regular to do so — but he checked out after four seconds to extend his league-leading consecutive games played streak to 370. The Pistons won the tip, Tristan chased down and fouled Steve Blake, and his shoes (Kobes, naturally) were off before he even got to the bench. Congratulations?

6 — A day after signing with the team, Dahntay Jones fouled out in his Cavs debut. He played more than 42 minutes, scoring 13 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Should the Cavs wind up in the Finals against the Warriors, perhaps Jones will be used as a strategic irritant.

82 — You know what? That’s enough. We’ve watched 82 games. We’ve been through the ol’ regular season ups and downs. It’s time for the playoffs. I always feel like Bart Scott at times like these.