Shorthanded Cavaliers try to hold off Hornets

In recent seasons, the Charlotte Hornets struggled to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Those versions of the Cavaliers featured superstar LeBron James.

On Nov. 3, the Hornets snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series with an easy rout on their home floor and Tuesday, Charlotte looks to snap its seven-game road losing streak to the Cavaliers.

Before shooting 57.1 percent in a 126-94 win 10 days ago, the Hornets last beat the Cavaliers on Feb. 3, 2016, in a game Kemba Walker sat out. Charlotte’s losing streak in Cleveland dates to when James was in his final season with the Miami Heat.

Since a 96-94 win at Cleveland on April 5, 2014, the Hornets have lost their subsequent visits there by a combined 77 points. They came close to ending their skid in Cleveland on Nov. 24, 2017, when J.R. Smith hit the winning free throw with 48 seconds remaining after James hit the tying basket.

Walker was 6 of 21 from the floor in the last meeting in Cleveland and was 1 of 5 in the fourth quarter of that game.

Since snapping their overall skid to Cleveland earlier this month, the Hornets have won two of three games and are two points away from a four-game winning streak. They sandwiched a one-point overtime loss at Philadelphia around double-digit wins at Atlanta and Detroit respectively.

On Sunday, the Hornets moved to 7-6 by shooting 50.6 percent and getting 24 points apiece from Walker and Tony Parker in a 113-103 win at Detroit. Parker is averaging 10.7 points in his reserve role but tied a season high in points and shot 11 of 18 Sunday.

Besides Parker and Walker’s showings, the Hornets also got it done defensively by allowing a season-low 36.5 percent shooting.

“I thought we were great tonight, fantastic,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “(Our) effort, (our) attention to detail, our execution’s only getting better. Our spacing is getting better. Our rotation is taking form. I’m really proud of our group tonight on both ends of the floor.”

The Hornets will play Tuesday without reserve forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who sprained his right ankle Sunday while landing on Malik Monk’s foot. Rookie Miles Bridges, who scored 12 points in the last meeting with Cleveland, is expected to see some of Kidd-Gilchrist’s minutes in Charlotte’s rotation.

The loss to Charlotte is part of Cleveland’s five-game losing streak and amongst its seven double-digit losses. Since then the Cavaliers have lost to Orlando, Oklahoma City and Chicago by a combined 12 points.

Because of those three straight losses, the Cavaliers believe they are getting closer as they attempt to overcome a 1-11 start. After the loss in Charlotte, the players conducted a meeting before a 102-100 loss at Orlando.

“I think we’re starting to kind of figure out each other,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew told reporters at practice. “I think right now with the team and how we’ve been playing lately, I think they’re starting to understand what I’m looking for. I think we’re doing things a little bit better than the last time we played (Charlotte). I don’t think we are that same team at this point. I really feel like we’ve made strides since the last time we played this team.”

Since the infamous showing in Charlotte, the Cavaliers blew a five-point lead in the final minute and lost on a buzzer-beater in Orlando, took the lead against Oklahoma City in the fourth quarter before wilting and took a 99-98 loss when rookie Collin Sexton missed two layups in the final three seconds.

“After the Chicago game, all the guys kept saying, ‘We’re getting close.’ Getting close means we’re starting to show that real competitive edge to us,” Drew told reporters “We’re starting to play with a sense of urgency. It really comes down to plays going down the stretch.”

Sexton is getting increased minutes in the last two games.

He played 19 minutes in Charlotte and 17 in Orlando but has played 42 and 34, respectively, in the last two games and scored 35 points in the last two games.

Sexton is expected to be in the starting backcourt again Wednesday as the Cavaliers will be without three players besides Kevin Love, who is out indefinitely following left foot surgery. Guard George Hill (right shoulder sprain) will sit out while forwards Cedi Osman (lower back spasms) and Sam Dekker (left ankle sprain) will sit.