Irving intent on leading Cavs, James doubtful vs. Kings
The Cleveland Cavaliers suffered through their worst stretch the last time LeBron James missed an extended period.
Kyrie Irving seems intent on not letting that happen again - even if Cleveland is also without Kevin Love.
Coming off the highest-scoring effort in the NBA this season, Irving will try to lead the banged-up Cavaliers to their longest winning streak in five years when they host the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
Cleveland (27-20) had good reason to be concerned when it learned James could miss several games with a sprained right wrist sustained in Tuesday's 103-95 win at Detroit.
James, who is doubtful, had averaged 30.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in eight games to follow a stretch in which the Cavaliers dropped seven of eight while he was sidelined with knee and back soreness.
Cleveland was 1-8 without James this season before its star point guard took matters into his own hands Wednesday.
Irving scored 55 points - a Quicken Loans Arena record - to carry the Cavaliers to their eighth straight win, 99-94 over Portland. He made a franchise-best 11 3-pointers and hit a go-ahead jumper with 6.4 seconds left.
Only James, who scored 56 at Toronto in 2005, has put up more points in a game for Cleveland.
"I've seen a lot of great performances," coach David Blatt said. "But something quite like that? No. I have not seen that and I've been coaching a long time."
Irving has totaled 93 points while going 17 for 29 from 3-point range and 16 for 16 from the foul line in the past two games. He's shot 7 for 13 from 3-point range in his last two against Sacramento, though he's averaged only 13.7 points over the past three matchups.
Continuing his high-scoring ways could be all the more critical if Love has to miss time after fighting through a knee injury Wednesday. Love, who is day to day, has averaged 27.7 points in his last six meetings with the Kings, but he's scored a combined 17 and shot 6 for 26 in the previous two games.
Love finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Irving scored 21 in a 103-84 loss at Sacramento on Jan. 11, when the Cavaliers played without James, Iman Shumpert and Shawn Marion.
Cleveland has averaged 111.3 points over the past seven games, though it has only reached 100 once without James this season. That could change as the club tries for its longest winning streak since a 13-game run Jan. 16-Feb. 11, 2010.
The Kings (16-28) have allowed an average of 122.5 points and 34 of 74 shooting from 3-point range in the last two of a seven-game losing streak. They've given up 113.1 points in their past eight on the road.
"Take pride in playing one-on-one defense, that'll solve a lot of problems," center DeMarcus Cousins said.
Sacramento is looking to avoid its longest skid since December 2010 following Wednesday's 119-102 defeat at Toronto, as Cousins struggled to a 13-point, four-rebound, nine-turnover performance.
He had 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks in the first matchup with the Cavs.