Cavaliers-Hornets Preview

After a strong start to a difficult home stretch, the New

Orleans Hornets couldn’t meet the challenge in their last two


Things aren’t likely to be as tough in the finale Sunday night

against the injury-plagued Cleveland Cavaliers, who are mired in

their worst losing streak of the season.

The Hornets (25-48) lost to Golden State and beat Boston to open

this season-high seven-game homestand before facing four straight

games against four of the league’s top six teams record-wise. That

stretch began with victories over Memphis and Denver, which had

entered with a 15-game winning streak.

New Orleans, however, couldn’t keep its string of upsets going,

falling to the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami by a combined 33

points in its last two.

The Southwest Division-worst Hornets appeared to be in the wrong

place at the wrong time against the league-best Heat on Friday.

After having its 27-game win streak stopped two days earlier, Miami

made 60.9 percent from the field and 14 for 27 from 3-point range

on the way to a 108-89 victory.

“We could have pressed up in our man defense a little more,”

said forward Ryan Anderson, who led New Orleans with 20 points. “We

could have helped a little bit better.”

The Hornets had allowed 85.0 points per game on 41.7 percent

shooting over their three-game winning streak before giving up

averages of 106.5 points and 53.5 percent in their last two


They appear to have a decent chance at tightening things up

against a Cleveland team that has struggled on offense lately

without its starting backcourt – and top two scorers.

While Dion Waiters (sore knee) remains sidelined, star point

guard Kyrie Irving has been cleared to play in this game. Irving,

who had missed the previous eight games with a strained left

shoulder, is averaging a team-high 23.0 points despite missing 22

games overall.

Cleveland is going to be cautious with Irving for the final 11

games, and the guard will be inactive for Monday’s game versus

Atlanta as ”he takes the next steps in his recovery.”

Irving and Waiters combined for 51 points on 19-of-32 shooting

in a 105-100 home win over New Orleans on Feb. 20.

The injuries seem to have caught up with the team offensively.

Cleveland has averaged 85.7 points on 41.1 percent shooting –

including 15 for 55 from 3-point range – in its last three


“I can’t worry about the guys who aren’t playing,” coach Byron

Scott said. “The biggest thing with us is we need six or seven guys

to play really well.”

C.J. Miles scored 19 points and Tyler Zeller added 14 and 10

rebounds Friday, but Cleveland dropped its season-high seventh

straight with a 97-87 loss to Philadelphia.

It doesn’t figure to get any easier for the Cavaliers on Sunday

considering they’ve lost 12 of 13 road contests against West


The Hornets, however, may be short-handed as well. Point guard

Greivis Vasquez, who has missed two of the last three games with an

ankle injury, is expected to be a game-time decision.

Brian Roberts started those two games in place of Vasquez and

scored 13 points in each, but he had 18 assists in the win over

Denver and only five Friday.

The Hornets have won four of five at home in this series.