Wizards-Cavaliers Preview

Their best month of the season behind them, the Cleveland

Cavaliers find themselves in the midst of yet another poor

stretch.

With Kyrie Irving set to miss even more time after his latest

injury, turning things around could prove difficult.

The Cavs go for their third win in as many meetings with

Washington in 2012-13 on Tuesday night, though the Wizards will

have star guard John Wall in the lineup for the first time in the

season series.

Cleveland (21-42) went 7-5 in February and closed the month with

a 4-1 stretch, but it’s lost four of five since and the outlook

doesn’t appear any brighter going forward after Irving left a

100-96 loss at Toronto on Sunday. He suffered a sprained left

shoulder during a collision on a drive to the basket and could be

out a month – or even the rest of the regular season, as the team

has only 19 games left.

Irving, among the top 10 in the NBA with 23.0 points per game,

has already missed plenty of action. He sat out 11 games in

November and December with a broken finger, as well as three games

from Feb. 26-March 1 with a sore right knee.

“He’s still very young and his body hasn’t fully developed,”

coach Byron Scott said. ”I’m just not that concerned about it, to

be honest with you. All the injuries that he has gotten have been

legitimate injuries. It’s not something that keeps recurring over

and over again.”

Cleveland blew a 17-point lead to the Raptors as it continues to

be plagued by bad third quarters. The Cavs have been outscored in

that period in each of the last four games by a total of 42 points,

averaging 17.3 points themselves during the third in that

stretch.

The Cavaliers were outscored 33-19 by the Raptors in that

period.

“We’ve got to come out and play like men in the third quarter,”

said forward Tristan Thompson, who has recorded double-doubles in

three straight games and four of five. “It starts on the defensive

end. We’ve got to be men and get stops and play together.”

Irving averaged 27.5 points in wins over the Wizards in October

and December, but with his absence and Wall being healthy,

Cleveland may have trouble earning a victory this time. Washington

(20-41) has the worst road record in the NBA at 5-24 and is

averaging 86.4 points away from home, but it’s coming off a 104-87

victory over Charlotte on Saturday.

“Don’t talk to me about slumps,” coach Randy Wittman said. “I

don’t want these guys looking at, ‘This is a team that is

struggling.’ We’ve got to take care of business our way, and I

thought we did that tonight.”

The Wizards got the win without leading scorer Bradley Beal, who

missed his third straight contest with a sprained left ankle. The

guard could return Tuesday.

Trevor Ariza scored a season-high 26 against the Bobcats and has

averaged 14.9 points – 5.5 above his season mark – in his last nine

games while going 20 for 45 from 3-point range.

Despite the Wizards’ lack of success away from home, they’ve

held their last 11 road opponents to fewer than 100 points.

Wall has averaged 21.3 points in his past three games against

Cleveland.