James scores 17 in finale

NEW YORK (AP) -- Fittingly, LeBron James finished his rookie
season on a positive note.

The most hyped player to enter the NBA straight out of high
school scored his final two points of 2003-04 on a crowd-pleasing
dunk with 30 seconds remaining in a 100-90 victory Wednesday night
over the New York Knicks.

"I think overall I had a very successful season, but not
because of my statistical categories," James said. "I look at the
team, and we doubled plus one our wins from last year. And we got
better from Day 1 until now."

Some might dispute that final statement, as Cleveland's late-
season swoon kept the Cavs out of the playoffs in the underwhelming
Eastern Conference.

But there was no denying the improvement they made, going from
17 to 35 victories while playing in front of sellout crowds all
around the NBA.

Their finale was a quality win, given that the Knicks used their
starters throughout the fourth quarter, but were outplayed by a
lottery-bound team that had lost 12 of its previous 15 games.

After James scored the last of his 17 points and the final
buzzer sounded, he exchanged hugs with players from both teams.

"I don't want to say it's good to be done," James said. "I
think I really need to rest, but if there was any opportunity for
us to keep going I would love to play."

James finished the season with averages of 20.9 points, 5.9
rebounds and 5.5 assists.

"He is not the future. He is the present," Knicks guard Penny
Hardaway said.

James now moves on to his first summer vacation as an NBA
veteran, while the Knicks will head into a first-round playoff
series against the New Jersey Nets beginning Saturday afternoon.

New York had a chance to move up to sixth place in the
conference, but needed a victory and a loss by New Orleans, which
defeated Washington 94-78.

The result of the Hornets-Wizards game was known by the time the
fourth quarter got underway, but it was clear much earlier that New
Orleans was on its way to a victory.

"I thought that we didn't have the same intensity we had the
past couple of games, and I think a lot of it was us as much as it
was them," Knicks coach Lenny Wilkens said. "We can do a much
better job than that. We'll start the focus on that tomorrow."

James had only 10 points though the first three quarters of a
lackluster game.

New York pulled to 88-82 on a floater by Hardaway with 4:41
remaining, but Tony Battie had a dunk for an eight-point lead, and
DeSagana Diop converted a putback with 3:03 left for a 92-82 edge.

Jeff McInnis led Cleveland with 19 points, and Carlos Boozer and
Ira Newble added 14 apiece. The Cavs won their third in a row and
completed a sweep of the season series.

Stephon Marbury had 27 points, eight assists and six rebounds
for the Knicks, playing 44 minutes after seeing a combined 34
minutes in New York's previous two games.

The rest of New York's starters and key reserves also played a
normal number of minutes as Wilkens looked to get them back into
their usual rotations in advance of the Knicks' first postseason
appearance in three years.

It will be the third all-time playoff meeting between the Knicks
and Nets, whose cross-river rivalry has never been all that
intense. New York defeated New Jersey 3-1 in the first round in
1994 en route to the NBA Finals, and 2-0 in 1983 when the first
round was best-of-three.<

^Notes: James said he would like to be consulted over the summer
on personnel moves. ... With their 35th victory, the Cavs more than
doubled their win total of 17 from last season. ... Knicks forward
Vin Baker bruised his left knee and hip in the first half and did
not return. X-rays were negative. ... Knicks G Allan Houston said
his injured left knee is not feeling much better. He is unsure if
he will be available for the series against the Nets. "I've been
kind of playing injured and doing a lot of damage to my knees for a
long time. It's something that is not really where it's going to
be, where it should be or where I want it to be right now. But I
don't want to miss out on an opportunity to play in the playoffs.
I've been waiting for this for a long time."


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