76ers bringing road winning streak to Cleveland
With their best player sidelined with a knee bruise, the Cleveland Cavaliers needed to add some punch to their lineup if they planned on climbing into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
They’re hoping Luol Deng is enough to make that push a reality.
Cleveland acquired the two-time All-Star early Tuesday, but it’s unclear if he’ll be available to make his Cavaliers debut later in the evening against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.
The Cavaliers’ Andrew Bynum experiment didn’t pan out, and with the team facing a Tuesday night deadline to deal or waive the suspended center before having to fully guarantee his 2013-14 salary, it found a trade it liked. Cleveland (11-23) shipped Bynum, a first-round pick and two second-rounders to Chicago shortly after midnight for Deng.
Deng, who’s averaging a career-best 19.0 points along with 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists, is a free agent after the season but provides an immediate upgrade for a team that had no consistent production from its small forwards.
"Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team," Cavs general manager Chris Grant said in a statement. "He’s a tremendous defensive player that can impact the game on both ends of the court with a team-first mentality and is a high character leader."
It’s uncertain if Deng will make his Cavs debut Tuesday, and it’s also unclear if Cleveland will get its All-Star point guard back. The Cavaliers’ 82-78 loss to Indiana on Sunday was the third straight game Irving has missed with what is thought to be a minor knee injury.
Backup point guard Jarrett Jack also missed Sunday’s loss with back spasms.
"These types of losses hurt because we were right there," guard Dion Waiters said after the Cavs cut a 16-point deficit to one in the closing minutes. "We’ve been there all year long though. Once we find a way to close these games out, we’ll be really good."
The 76ers enter the game having won four consecutive road games for the first time since April 18-25, 2012. Philadelphia had lost 13 in a row away from home prior to this run.
Its overall win streak, which concluded a six-game road trip, came to an ugly end Monday back home. The 76ers (12-22) gave up 105 points in the first three quarters, turned it over 23 times and allowed Minnesota to make 16 of 26 3-pointers in a 126-95 loss.
Philadelphia finished its trip less than 48 hours earlier in Portland, and Tuesday will mark the team’s fifth game in seven nights.
"I’ve never seen a schedule like this coming back from a West Coast trip," said center Spencer Hawes. "It’s not like we’re just getting to stay home."
Thaddeus Young was a bright spot Monday with 20 points, and he’s averaged 25.6 while shooting 55.9 percent over his last eight games. Young had 16 points in a 94-79 home win over the Cavaliers on Nov. 8, then had 29 in a 127-125 double-overtime loss in Cleveland the next night.
Evan Turner had a total of 53 points, 20 rebounds and 10 turnovers in that back-to-back set, while Irving carried the Cavs in their victory with 39 points and 12 assists, hitting the game-winning layup with 0.6 seconds left.
Overall, the 76ers have won nine of the last 11 meetings between the teams.