Timberwolves-Cavaliers Preview

BY foxsports • January 24, 2016

The Cleveland Cavaliers certainly didn't benefit from any bump in performance in their first game under Tyronn Lue, who says it might take some time to implement his vision for an up-tempo offense.

Things are likely to come easier against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Looking to give Lue his first coaching victory, the Cavaliers hope to avoid dropping consecutive home games for the first time in a year Monday night while dealing the Timberwolves their ninth consecutive road defeat.

Not all that much changed one day following David Blatt's surprising dismissal after he had taken Cleveland to last year's NBA Finals and guided the team to the top of the Eastern Conference halfway through this season.

The Cavs came out flat and showed little punch in Saturday's 96-83 home loss to Chicago that marked their second defeat in three games at Quicken Loans Arena after a 15-1 start there. They scored a season-low total for a home game on 37.2 percent shooting in Lue's coaching debut.

LeBron James finished with 26 points but went 11 of 27 from the field. Kyrie Irving also struggled, missing 11 of 16 attempts on his way to 11 points.

Cleveland fans were so frustrated that they booed the players as they walked off. The Cavs haven't lost consecutive home games since a four-game skid from Dec. 28, 2014-Jan. 7, 2015.

"I think we have to play faster," Lue told the team's official website. "I think we have to utilize Kyrie and LeBron's one-on-one ability in transition to open the floor more and run in more drags. We just haven't been accustomed to playing that way. I have to do a better job of getting us in better shape."

Cleveland (30-12) ranks near the bottom of the league in terms of pace, averaging 94.9 possessions per 48 minutes after having just 88 on Saturday.

The Cavs could net better results against Minnesota, which has given up 109.8 points per game and 50.1 percent shooting during its eight-game road losing streak.

Cleveland has averaged 118.7 points on 51.2 percent shooting during a three-game winning streak in the series. They had 96 possessions on the way to a season-high point total in a 125-99 win at Minnesota on Jan. 8.

J.R. Smith led the way with a season-high 27 points, while Iman Shumpert scored a season-best 23 and former Wolves star Kevin Love added 20 points and nine rebounds in his second trip back to Minnesota (14-31).

Now the Wolves are trying to win back-to-back games for only the second time since Nov. 27 after Saturday's 106-101 home win over Memphis. Shabazz Muhammed had a season-high 25 points and Andrew Wiggins scored 19 as Minnesota beat a team with a winning record for the first time since Nov. 25.

''We've been learning," guard Ricky Rubio said. "After (a nine-game losing streak) that we had, I think the last four games we've been playing better.''

Wiggins, acquired in the Love trade, has done his best to torment the Cavs. He's averaged 31.7 points while hitting 9 of 14 from 3-point range in three meetings after scoring a career-high 35 earlier this month.

Karl-Anthony Towns, this year's No. 1 overall draft pick, had 22 points in that contest and Muhammad has totaled 40 in his last two meetings.

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