Cavaliers making progress before home crowd
The Minnesota Timberwolves got the best of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the last meeting, though each team had a much different look.
Minnesota looks to avoid a ninth consecutive road loss as Cleveland continues its seven-game homestand Monday night.
Kevin Love scored a season-high 36 points and grabbed 13 rebounds Dec. 7 in the Timberwolves' 91-73 home win over the Cavaliers, who were playing their 10th of an 11-game stretch without Kyrie Irving as he recovered from a broken finger.
Monday's meeting should have a different feel.
Love once again broke his right hand, and Minnesota (18-30) has gone 3-16 since he went down Jan. 3. It also has played the last three games without Andrei Kirilenko (strained right quad), including Sunday's 105-88 loss at Memphis.
J.J. Barea also sat out with a sprained left foot.
Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio each scored 17 points for the Wolves, who have lost by an average of 13.3 points during an eight-game road skid.
They committed 20 turnovers Sunday and rank in the bottom third of the league averaging 15.3 per game.
"We've got to take care of the ball," said Dante Cunningham, the only player who logged minutes for Minnesota who did not commit a turnover. "They took advantage of it, and it was hard for us to get back in the game."
Minnesota, which ranks among the league's worst-shooting teams at 43.7 percent, was outscored 16-0 in fast-break points.
"We like to play in the fast break, but (the Grizzlies) get back on the defense pretty good," Rubio said. "They didn't let us get any easy baskets."
While Cleveland is last in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense (47.6) and ranks 28th shooting 42.8 percent from the field, it has committed an average of only 9.3 turnovers over its last three games.
It has played much better since the return of Irving, who will partake in this coming weekend's All-Star festivities in Houston.
The Cavs (16-35) have won six of nine despite Saturday's 111-103 loss to Denver, with Irving averaging 26.9 points and shooting 52.4 percent in that stretch.
Alonzo Gee hit all eight of his field goal attempts and finished with 20 points Saturday, equaling his total from his previous three games combined. Irving scored a game-high 26 points and added seven assists for Cleveland, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.
"I feel like we're still making steps in the right direction," Irving said. "Both groups, the starters and the bench were lacking a bit of energy. We were a step behind.
"Partly, that stems from me just not being aware. Going forward, we just have to learn from this game and get ready for Monday."
Cleveland has lost three of the last four meetings with Minnesota, including a 98-97 defeat Dec. 26, 2010, that ended a four-game home winning streak in the series.
The Cavaliers dropped 12 of their first 15 games at Quicken Loans Arena but have since won six of eight there despite Saturday's defeat.
"In my mind, we didn't take a step back at all," coach Byron Scott said. "I'm not disappointed in our effort."