NEW YORK - 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. Boozer, a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, added a team-high 12 rebounds. The Cavs won their third in a row and completed a sweep of the season series.
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