Cavs aim to finish strong

Cavs aim to finish strong

Published Apr. 11, 2011 1:24 p.m. ET

Two games are left. That’s it. Two games for the Cavaliers to end this season of lots of growing and pain -- and getting a little better at the end.

One of those games is tonight in Detroit, where the Cavs face a Pistons team that is in the same place. Like the Cavs, the Pistons will spend the early portion of the NBA playoffs counting draft lottery ping-pong balls.

Unlike the Pistons, the Cavs have a dilemma on their hands. They play to win every night, and that much is clear in their effort. But their fans, nervous about potentially losing the best chance at the No. 1 overall pick, often think the best thing to do now is lose.

That said, you can be sure neither the Cavs nor the Pistons are going to tank games.

As Cavs coach Byron Scott has said, for non-playoff teams, the end of the season serves as an early training camp. So Scott expects his players to play hard and with energy, displaying passion and skill. He expects them to win.

The players are on board with this type of thinking, especially now that veteran guard Baron Davis has become the clear leader since a late-February trade with the Clippers. The Cavs (17-63) won five of their first 12 games with Davis, and are 5-9 with him overall.

“We're all competitors and once you step out there on the floor you're going to compete,” said Cavs guard Daniel Gibson. “We have to figure out how to finish this season the right way because the end of this season will say a lot about our plans for next year.”

As for tonight’s game (7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio), the Cavs and Pistons have been headed in opposite directions lately. The Pistons (29-51) have won three straight, while the Cavs have lost two in a row. Each team is 4-6 in its last 10 games.

But the Cavs (17-63) at least have stability in the front office, with Scott and general manager Chris Grant certain to return next season.

The Pistons, on the other hand, were just sold to California billionaire Tom Gores -- and changes are likely forthcoming. One of those very well could involve coach John Kuester, a former assistant with the Cavs who is completing his second season. His contract is for three years, but those sorts of things rarely matter in the world of professional basketball.

“You’re in a business where you’re in it to win. If you’re not continually winning, I understand,” Kuester said. “But do I feel comfortable and confident in doing the job? Absolutely.”

Quick Hits

* Since the NBA increased the odds of the team with the worst record winning the lottery from 20 to 25 percent in 1994, the worst team has actually won the lottery just twice. Once was the Cavs in 2003, the other was Orlando a year later. So Cavs fans shouldn’t fret too much if Minnesota (also 17-63) ends up with the best odds.

* The No. 1 picks of the past five drafts: Andre Bargnani (2006), Greg Oden (2007), Derrick Rose (2008), Blake Griffin (2009) and John Wall (2010).

* The No. 2 picks of the past five drafts: LaMarcus Aldridge (2006), Kevin Durant (2007), Michael Beasley (2008), Hasheem Thabeet (2009), Evan Turner (2010).

* In other words, being No. 1 or No. 2 really isn’t that much of a difference, if at all. Both spots have produced really good players (Rose, Durant, Aldridge, Griffin) and a couple of busts (Thabeet and the injury-plagued Oden).

* The Cavs conclude the 2010-11 season Wednesday at home against Washington. Like all NBA games on the final night of the regular season, tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. This marks the first time since 2004-05 that the Cavs have failed to reach the playoffs.