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.
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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.