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News » Cavaliers-Wizards Preview 2009-04-02

Cavaliers-Wizards Preview 2009-04-02

Cavaliers-Wizards Preview 2009-04-02
The Cleveland Cavaliers are having their best season in franchise history while the Washington Wizards are flirting with their worst, but that has been far from evident when they've gone head-to-head.

The league-best Cavaliers will look to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games Thursday night when they visit the Eastern Conference-worst Wizards, who have played well in splitting two games with Cleveland and are finally getting healthier.

Lengthy winning streaks have been routine for the Cavaliers (61-13) this season, as they've won at least eight in a row three times. The victories in their current 13-game streak haven't always come easily - seven have been by six points or fewer - but they've shown resiliency throughout, most recently in a far-from-perfect 79-73 comeback win over Detroit on Tuesday.

"That's the sign of a good team," LeBron James said after finishing with game highs of 25 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. "No matter the circumstances, we continue to win. Whatever the game is, tight or a shootout or an offensive struggle or a defensive game, we find a way to win."

Cleveland is now 36-1 at home and in March became just the sixth team in NBA history to win 16 games in one month. They have a seemingly insurmountable five-game lead on Boston for home-court in the East and a 2 1/2-game cushion on the Los Angeles Lakers for home-court through the NBA finals.

"That is amazing," said James, who's averaged 28.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2.0 steals during the winning streak. "Ever since the All-Star game we've been really, really focused. That's an unbelievable month for any team."

The Cavaliers' past month has nearly equaled a season's worth of wins for the Wizards (17-59), who need three victories in their final six games to avoid matching the 2000-01 team's 19-63 record, the franchise's worst since it moved to Washington 35 years ago.

Still, the Wizards have played Cleveland tough. Washington's been eliminated from the past three postseasons by the Cavaliers, but the Wizards have hung with them in both meetings this season.

Washington led by seven points on Christmas night in Cleveland before Mo Williams engineered an 11-0 closing run to give the Cavaliers a 93-89 win. Ten days later, however, the Wizards won 80-77 in a game best remembered for James getting called for a travel on a potential tying layup with 2.3 seconds left - a move he called his "crab dribble."

"That was one of them situations in which a great player made a move, good officiating, and they called the call," Washington's Caron Butler said. "And I was like, 'Oh, man, there is a God.'"

Washington was without Gilbert Arenas for both of those meetings, but he's expected to play Thursday, which would be his first regular-season game against Cleveland since Nov. 18, 2006. Arenas made his season debut Saturday, finishing with 15 points and 10 assists against Detroit before sitting out losses at Indiana and Memphis.

The Wizards had an excellent opportunity to pick up their 18th win Wednesday at similarly woeful Memphis, and Brendan Haywood played for the first time after missing the team's first 75 games following offseason wrist surgery.

Washington rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the score with 1:23 left, but lost 112-107 despite a combined 59 points from Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

Jamison, though, was just glad to see Haywood, who had two points in 24 minutes, back on the floor.

"That was a luxury we've definitely been missing all year," Jamison said. "Just his presence in the paint on both ends of the floor means a lot."

The Cavaliers have lost three straight and seven of eight in Washington.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 2, 2009


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