Cavaliers-Bucks Preview

BY foxsports • April 4, 2016

Through all the uncertainty surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving continue to insist they're ready for the postseason.

It may be tough for some to believe, especially given Irving's recent injury, though the Cavaliers can inch closer to securing the Eastern Conference's top seed with their third straight win over the host Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

A couple days after Irving said the Cavaliers (55-22) were the "team to beat" - not really clarifying if he meant in the East or the entire league - James issued his own concise postseason statement following Sunday's 112-103 win over Charlotte.

"If it started tomorrow, we'd be ready to go," James said after Cleveland's third straight victory.

The Cavaliers lead Toronto in the East by 3 1/2 games with five left, though the Raptors have a game in hand and hold the tiebreaker, keeping Cleveland from a clinching scenario Tuesday.

James' assuredness comes without knowing if Irving will be available against the last-place Bucks (32-45). The three-time All-Star sprained his right ankle late in the first half of Friday's 110-108 overtime win at Atlanta, and soreness and swelling kept him out against the Hornets.

Irving played in the second half and extra period against the Hawks, though it seemed the Cavaliers were playing it safe two days later. Coach Tyronn Lue said he doesn't know if Irving will require more rest.

Lue has rested his star players down the stretch, including James twice in the last three weeks. The four-time MVP has responded well, averaging 28.6 points, 9.6 assists and 8.9 rebounds while playing in seven games during a 6-2 stretch. He has two triple-doubles in that span and just missed two more over the weekend.

After going for 29 points, a season-high 16 rebounds and nine assists in Atlanta, James logged 31 points, 12 assists and eight boards against Charlotte.

"I think he's been leading by example knowing that the playoffs are coming up and we have to get ready for this stretch," Lue told the team's official website. "I think he's done a great job of setting the tone for us."

The Cavaliers, who are 23-15 on the road, have games remaining against three possible first-round opponents - Indiana, Chicago and Detroit - with another against an Atlanta team that could line up in the second round.

First, they'll try to win the four-game season series against Milwaukee.

James has averaged 30 points, 9 rebounds and 6.3 assists and Kevin Love 23.3 points and 13 rebounds in this series, helping Cleveland to back-to-back wins. The Cavs, who were without Irving in the first two, have won four of the last five meetings.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has averaged 24.3 points against Cleveland this season, and he logged his second straight big game in Sunday's 102-98 loss to Chicago. He had a career-high 34 points, nine assists and five rebounds two days after posting his fifth triple-double in a 113-110 win over Orlando.

Jabari Parker chipped in 24 points against the Bulls, but Milwaukee's two-game winning streak was snapped as leading scorer Khris Middleton sat with a strained left thigh while the Bucks fell to 23-16 at BMO Harris Bradley Center.

"We missed Khris," Antetokounmpo said. "I told (Parker) before the game we have to be aggressive, we have to push the team. We have to make the other guys play hard and just try to compete."

Milwaukee made only 2 of 7 from 3-point range, the third-lowest total attempted in a game by any team this season. It is unclear if Middleton will be available Tuesday.

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