Cavaliers-Bobcats Preview

The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers visited the Charlotte

Bobcats, they were in the early stages of a 26-game losing

streak.

This time, they’ll head to Time Warner Cable Arena off a

performance that may almost make them forget the rest of their

miserable season.

After spoiling LeBron James’ latest homecoming, the Cavaliers

look to do the same Wednesday night to the Bobcats’ three-game

winning streak – and their renewed playoff hopes.

Cleveland (15-58) finished with the league’s best record in each

of James’ final two seasons, but it’s heading toward having the

most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery without him.

But even in a season that’s featured an NBA-record losing

streak, the Cavaliers have had a few bright spots – including home

wins against Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.

They notched a far more meaningful victory Tuesday night,

though. After getting walloped by 28 in James’ initial visit back

to Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 2, Cleveland got its revenge,

shooting a season-high 55.6 percent and stunning Miami 102-90

despite coughing up all of a 23-point third-quarter lead.

“The last game here (against the Heat) left a bad taste in my

mouth,” coach Byron Scott told NBA.com. “They embarrassed us, and I

was still a little ticked off by what happened. This was a great

win.”

Expecting the Cavaliers to carry that momentum into Wednesday

seems like a long shot, however. Cleveland hasn’t won consecutive

games since Nov. 6-9, and it’s been outscored by an average of 15.6

points in going 2-29 on the road since then.

It’s also been routinely routed on the second night of

back-to-back situations. Since falling 101-92 at Charlotte (31-42)

on Dec. 29, the Cavaliers have lost their last nine back ends by an

average of 18.9 points.

Facing a Bobcats team that’s suddenly back in playoff contention

isn’t likely to reverse that trend. After falling three games

behind Indiana for the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 playoff spot with

a 111-88 loss to the Pacers last Wednesday, Charlotte is back

within a game.

It won its third straight Monday in particularly unlikely

fashion. Down 86-80 to Milwaukee with 3:52 to play, Gerald

Henderson scored the game’s final seven points to lift the Bobcats

to an 87-86 victory.

Henderson, who’s started all 16 games since Gerald Wallace was

traded, has averaged 14.4 points and shot 49.3 percent since March

5.

“I have to give him all the credit in the world,” coach Paul

Silas said. “He’s really finding himself at the right time.”

While the Bobcats expect center Kwame Brown, who missed Monday’s

win to be with his ill daughter, back Wednesday, there are still

plenty of health concerns for Silas’ club. Fellow big men Joel

Przybilla and DeSagana Diop are sidelined with injuries, and

forward Tyrus Thomas could miss the game after leaving Wednesday’s

shootaround with knee pain.

Starting point guard D.J. Augustin (bruised knee, sprained

ankle) is expected to play, but backup Shaun Livingston (bruised

tailbone) remains out.

If Augustin, who had 28 points in the win over Cleveland in

December, can only play limited minutes, forward Boris Diaw – who

logged time at center Monday – and little-used guard Garrett Temple

could split time at the point.

Even if the Cavaliers catch a break there, they’ll need to

contain the other member of Charlotte’s backcourt. Stephen Jackson

has averaged 26.5 points during the Bobcats’ four-game winning

streak in the series – including 38 in December.

The teams conclude their season series Tuesday in Cleveland.