Cavs focus on Nets, not future first-round pick

CLEVELAND — The Brooklyn Nets represent an important opportunity for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, and not just because of the draft pick.

“I just say for us, just getting the win and playing well,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “I’m not so much worried about the pick, but continue to get better and continue to progress until we get through April to the playoffs, so my biggest focus is making sure we getting better each day.”

The Cavs host the Nets on Tuesday for the third meeting between the teams. Last summer, Cleveland acquired Brooklyn’s No. 1 draft pick for 2018 from Boston in a trade for Kyrie Irving.

Every Brooklyn loss means potentially good things for the Cavs’ future, and there have been plenty of those. The Nets had lost eight straight before beating Chicago 104-87 on Monday night.

But the Nets now have 20 wins — equaling last season’s total. As of now, the Brooklyn pick would likely be No. 7 in the draft.

That’s still good for the Cavs, who haven’t made a first-round pick since 2015, but they need wins now. They’re 5-2 since Feb. 7 but have lost two of three since the All-Star break.

In those two losses — a 110-103 setback to the Washington Wizards and a 110-94 loss to San Antonio on Sunday — Cleveland went 16 of 69 from 3-point range and failed offensively in the fourth quarter.

Rodney Hood, one of the Cavs’ four acquisitions at the trade deadline, was held scoreless in the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ losses.

“We definitely have to get him more touches,” Lue said. “We have to make sure we have a balance of getting the ball in his hands and getting the ball in Jordan’s (Clarkson) hands with that second unit and letting those guys be aggressive.

“Also at times when he has the ball (Hood) has to be aggressive. I think right now he’s in between, not sure. But we need him to be aggressive and score the basketball.”

Clarkson, another new Cavs player, is second in the NBA with a 14.3 scoring average off the bench.

The Nets are starting a five-game road trip. They returned Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert from injury against the Bulls.

Allen Crabbe led the Nets with 21 points against Chicago and has been their top scorer in the last six games.

“We’re in a downward trend right now and I think it’s so important that we get it back going this way (up),” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said, according to the team’s website. “I felt like it was trending that way most of the year, we’ve had a lot of good stretches, but we’ve hit this skid. … We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to finish this season going up.”

Hollis-Jefferson, who watched the Nets go 1-9 without him, said, “Watching everything that we’ve been going through, it’s been tough. Now that it’s here (his return to action), it feels good. It feels like the wait and everything that I’ve done, it’s all worth it.”

Hollis-Jefferson scored seven points and LeVert added six against Chicago.