Having been eliminated from playoff contention, the Cleveland Cavaliers are focused on finishing their final days of the season in positive fashion.
Cleveland will try to start doing that by building on a lopsided win and handing the lowly Milwaukee Bucks a seventh consecutive defeat Friday night.
The Cavaliers blew out Detroit 122-100 on Wednesday to avoid a third straight loss, and Dion Waiters’ 22 points led seven players in double figures. The Cavaliers also had their third-best shooting performance (57.0 percent), but Atlanta ended their postseason hopes with a 105-97 victory over Boston that same night.
"I feel good about the direction that we’re going," coach Mike Brown said. "Again, I think we have to keep understanding that every time we step out, we gotta grow, we gotta get better and our guys have shown that so far."
Kyrie Irving, who has dealt with a tumultuous past few days and perhaps faces an uncertain future, said there’s only one thing he’s striving toward in the final three games.
"As a man and as a competitor, you’ve got to suck it up," he said. "For me, it’s just about continuing to grow and finish the season strong."
Irving had a career-high 44 points in his third game back from a strained left biceps, a 96-94 overtime loss to Charlotte on Saturday, but was held to eight Wednesday.
Cleveland (32-47) would appear to have a strong chance to get another win as it visits the team with the league’s worst record. Milwaukee (14-64) is guaranteed to finish with the fewest victories in franchise history after dropping 14 of 15.
The Bucks have lost to Eastern Conference division leaders Miami, Toronto and Indiana in their last three home games, but were very competitive in the last two. They fell 102-98 to the Raptors on Saturday, but didn’t take any solace from Wednesday’s 104-102 loss to a Pacers team which didn’t use any of its usual starters and won on a basket with 1.2 seconds left.
"It was kind of like a smack in our face," said forward Jeff Adrien, who registered his fourth career double-double with 13 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
The Cavaliers have won the last two meetings but lost 109-104 in their only visit to Milwaukee this season Nov. 6. The Bucks’ leading scorer from that game, O.J. Mayo (28 points), hasn’t played since March 24 because of a sprained right ankle.
Irving has averaged 26.4 points in nine career matchups with Milwaukee, his best mark against any team. He had 29 points in the road loss in November and scored 39 in a 114-111 overtime win Dec. 20.
Waiters is averaging 22.2 points in his last 11 games for Cleveland, which has lost seven of eight in Milwaukee.
Bucks leading scorer Brandon Knight had 25 points Wednesday, but he’s averaged 10.7 in his last three games against the Cavs while shooting 12 for 43 (27.9 percent).