The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t had much to be proud of during a disappointing season. However, putting together a modest win streak prior to the All-Star break could have them right back in the mix for one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots.
They’ll try to notch a third straight victory for the second time this season and avenge last month’s blowout loss to the visiting Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Cleveland (18-33) seemed to draw at least a temporary spark from last week’s firing of general manager Chris Grant. After a season worst-tying six-game skid, the Cavaliers have won back-to-back games since his dismissal, knocking off Washington and Memphis.
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"I think it woke up a lot of people," said Dion Waiters, who combined for 42 points in the last two games after totaling six points in his previous two contests. "Me, I felt half of that was my fault, how we played. We just didn’t come out right as a unit. I think it cost the man his job. If we had been playing the way we have the last two games he’d probably still be here. We can’t dwell on the past, we’ve got to continue to play the way we’ve been playing and keep it up."
Kyrie Irving scored 28 – including the final four in regulation – in Sunday’s 91-83 overtime victory over the Grizzlies. He was 4 of 4 from 3-point range after going 8 of 35 in his previous seven games.
"Everybody was putting too much pressure on themselves," said Irving, who is shooting 34.7 percent in four career games versus Sacramento. "We needed to go out there and play basketball. Going out there the last two games, whether the game gets tight or gets away from you, it should be fun"
Four games out of eighth place, the Cavaliers close out their pre-break schedule Wednesday at Detroit, one of the teams they’re chasing in the East.
First, they’ll look to stop a three-game slide against the Kings. Cleveland suffered a 124-80 loss at Sacramento on Jan. 12, the sixth-worst loss in franchise history. Irving was 3 of 14 with seven points.
The Kings (17-34) have lost nine of 11 overall and six straight on the road following a rough offensive performance in Sunday’s 93-84 loss to Washington. They shot 35.4 percent – the third straight time they were below 40.0 – and committed 18 turnovers leading to 26 points for the Wizards.
Isaiah Thomas scored 30 on 11 of 24 shooting but the rest of the starting five combined for 31 points on 10 of 38 shooting.
Rudy Gay, who missed Friday’s loss to Boston due to an illness, was 2 of 11 for five points – 15.3 less than his average with the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins recorded his fourth straight double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds but was held to 3-of-16 shooting. He had averaged 27.0 points over his previous three contests.
"That was not an offensive performance we were hoping for," Sacramento coach Michael Malone said. "Very hard to win on the road when you turn the ball over that many times. We talked about it going in that this is a team that does a great job turning their opponents over and scoring."
Sacramento was 15 of 30 from beyond the arc in its win over the Cavaliers and outrebounded them 50-32. The previous five matchups were decided by a total of seven points.