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.