Beleaguered Cavaliers aim to knock off Bulls (Jan 04, 2017)

CLEVELAND — Two teams with point guard issues square off Wednesday when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Chicago Bulls. Both Kyrie Irving and Rajon Rondo have missed the last two games, but for far different reasons.

Irving has been sidelined with tightness in his right hamstring that the team doesn’t believe is serious — they haven’t even done any medical testing on it to this point. Rondo remains benched and out of the Bulls’ rotation.

The Cavaliers lost at Chicago in early December on the night LeBron James had to wear a Cubs’ uniform into United Center to pay off a bet he lost to Dwyane Wade. It was also the night James declared the Cavaliers’ “honeymoon” for winning the NBA championship was over. His team has responded by winning 13 of 15 since that loss.

The Bulls, however, are just 6-11 since that win against Cleveland.

Both teams are fighting injuries. Chicago rookie Denzel Valentine is not making the trip to Cleveland because of a left ankle injury and Wade will be a game-time decision with a sore knee. Then there is the Rondo saga.

Valentine was only getting extended minutes because Rondo has been benched. Yet despite him being out on Wednesday and Wade’s status still questionable, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg still won’t commit to playing Rondo.

“We’ll see how everything plays out,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “We’ll cross that bridge when and if that happens.”

Kevin Love, meanwhile, played 24 minutes despite battling food poisoning during the Cavaliers’ home win against New Orleans on Monday. Coach Tyronn Lue said Love believes he got it from eating a piece of fish on the team’s flight home on New Year’s Eve. Love was not himself on the floor Monday and ultimately left early in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.

James also left the locker room Monday with a baggie full of medicine and admitted he wasn’t feeling well as the flu continues to rip through the NBA.

“Can’t have any excuses no matter what’s going on with the team,” James said. “Has to be next man up and when guys’ numbers are called they’ve got to be ready to go.”

The Cavaliers are down to 10 healthy bodies — and that’s counting Love. Lue was forced to cancel shootaround Monday due in part to a lack of bodies, although Cleveland will hold its typical morning walkthrough Wednesday prior to the game.

With both Irving and J.R. Smith sidelined, the Cavaliers have relied on a batch of fringe NBA players such as Jordan McRae, DeAndre Liggins and Kay Felder. McRae and Liggins have started in the backcourt the last two games with mixed results, while Felder has quietly been steady as the undersized rookie point guard drafted 54th overall last summer.

Felder has averaged 10.5 points in the two games Irving has missed, both of which came after he erupted for 33 points in his only D-League appearance this season. Felder acknowledged that night gave him a confidence boost and reminded him he can play at this level. He has proved it for the last week. Now his coach wants him to keep playing freely.

“Don’t look over at the bench,” Lue told him. “Just play your game. And if you’re doing too much, I’ll let you know. So don’t keep looking at the bench and looking over your shoulder. Just play.”