If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to make a move toward the top of the Eastern Conference, they need to continue their recent domination of the league’s worst teams.
Looking to catch conference-leading Detroit, Cleveland (44-29) continues a six-game road trip Sunday against the Boston Celtics—owners of the East’s worst record.
The Cavaliers have won seven straight from Boston (22-50), and start play in second place in the East, 2 1/2 games behind Detroit . After this contest, Cleveland wraps up its road swing Tuesday night against lowly Minnesota. Following matchups with Miami and Washington, the Cavaliers will travel to face the Pistons next Sunday.
After winning a season-high eight in a row from March 3-17, Cleveland has gone just 3-4 and has failed to post consecutive wins. The Cavs will try again to win two in a row after getting 39 from LeBron James and 21 each from Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic in a 112-108 win over Chicago on Saturday.
“This was a playoff-type game. I said it before the game. We knew it. They knew it. We showed our mental toughness and got the job done,” James said. “We want homecourt advantage, see if we can try to get it throughout the playoffs, if not, for the first and second round.
“We’re in that position right now. We just got to continue to do the things we’ve been doing lately and win basketball games.”
Seven of James’ points came in overtime, when, trailing by four, he banked in a jumper and was fouled. After making the free throw to cut the score to 108-107, James grabbed a defensive rebound and converted the score on the other end to put his team up for good with 20 seconds left.
Though he’s played only six games during the Cavs’ winning streak against Boston, James has been a key contributor. He’s averaging 36.2 points in those contests, and his 29.8 average in 12 games overall is his second highest against any East team.
James had 32 points in Cleveland’s 107-104 win in Boston on Jan. 3.
The Celtics (22-50) are coming off an 88-82 loss to Philadelphia on Friday. Boston was without Paul Pierce—out with a sore elbow —and fell to 2-23 this season without their leading scorer.
“We had our chances, we really did,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We got off some shots, but didn’t convert. I just thought in the first half that not having Paul Pierce, everyone added up the shots that they were going to take and they tried to take them instead of executing offensively.”
Al Jefferson had 20 points, helping Boston rally from a 15-point deficit that ultimately fell short. He has 18 points and 12 rebounds during the loss to Cleveland in January.