Cavaliers-Bobcats Preview

The longest winning streak in the league this season is over,

but the Cleveland Cavaliers will have a different look as they try

to bounce back from their first loss in 14 games.

They’d also prefer a different result against the Charlotte

Bobcats.

Cleveland has dropped two of three to the up-and-coming Bobcats,

but will have newly acquired Antawn Jamison in the fold for the

first time Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena in a potential

first-round playoff preview.

The Cavaliers (43-12) didn’t have a game after the All-Star

break until Thursday, but they were still busy leading up to that

day’s trading deadline.

Looking for another scoring option alongside LeBron James, Mo

Williams and Shaquille O’Neal, Cleveland sent Zydrunas Ilgauskas

and a first-round draft pick to Washington for Jamison, who never

averaged fewer than 19.6 points per game in six seasons with the

currently hapless Wizards.

“It’s been surreal,” Jamison said. “To one day be in the

situation that is really tough and you don’t see anything positive

coming out of it to the next day, right before you’re about to go

out and suit up, I probably heard the greatest news of my whole

career.”

Jamison wasn’t cleared to play in time for Denver’s visit

Thursday, and Cleveland could have used him. Looking for a

franchise-record 14th straight victory, the Cavaliers lost 118-116

in overtime despite James’ 43 points, 15 assists and 13

rebounds.

No player had recorded at least 40 points, 15 assists and 13

rebounds in a game since Oscar Robertson had 42 points, 18 assists

and 15 rebounds on Feb. 13, 1962.

Cleveland, however, made just 23 of 40 free throws.

“You’re not always going to make 100 percent from the line, but

if we make 12 or 13 of those, it’s a totally different game,” James

said. “We have to do a better job than we did tonight.”

The Bobcats (26-26) are the only team other than Denver to beat

the Cavaliers twice, and a matchup with Charlotte would loom in the

first round if the season ended today.

Gerald Wallace has averaged 25.0 points in the Bobcats’ two

wins, while Stephen Jackson had a team-high 22 in a 91-88 victory

at Cleveland on Jan. 3.

“They’ve had our number the last couple of times we played

them,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “They’re long, they’re athletic

(and) they’re well-coached. … They play a physical style of

basketball.”

Cleveland welcomed Williams back against the Nuggets for the

first time since he sprained his left shoulder a month ago, and

Williams has averaged 24.3 points versus Charlotte. James, though,

has been held to 22.7 points per game against the Bobcats, and

Jamison has shot 29.6 percent in two losses with Washington.

While Charlotte has twice knocked off the NBA’s best team, it’s

also lost twice to the league-worst Nets. The Bobcats were

outrebounded 47-36 Tuesday in a 103-94 home loss to New Jersey.

“We didn’t respect them and they came in and played a better

game than we did,” said Jackson, who missed 13 of 20 shots.

Charlotte is hurting up front, with Nazr Mohammed and Tyson

Chandler both sitting out practice Thursday, the same day the team

announced former Cavalier DeSagana Diop will miss two weeks with a

sprained MCL. However, Mohammed and Chandler said they would try to

play Friday.

The Bobcats’ frontcourt also got a boost before the trade

deadline, acquiring veteran Theo Ratliff from San Antonio, and in a

more significant deal, getting mercurial forward Tyrus Thomas from

Chicago.

“It’s like getting a lottery pick in my mind,” Brown said of

Thomas, the fourth overall pick in 2006 who’s averaging 8.8 points

and 6.3 rebounds. “A young, big kid that’s got a huge upside. He

fills a lot of needs for us.”

Thomas arrived in Charlotte on Friday and is expected to play

against Cleveland.