At this point of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs should be hitting their stride in preparation for a title run. Neither has been playing like a championship-caliber team lately, though.
The Cavaliers look to break out of their funk and avoid losing three straight for the first time in a year Sunday when they host a Spurs team trying to get back on track after a lackluster defensive performance.
With the postseason less than two weeks away, Cleveland (61-15) is hoping to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Cavs have a 3 1/2-game lead over second-place Boston in the Eastern Conference and a one-game advantage over the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers.
After having a franchise-record 13-game winning streak come to an end with Thursday’s 109-101 loss to Washington - the East’s worst team - Cleveland suffered a humiliating 116-87 defeat to Orlando on Friday. The Cavs shot 36.9 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 41 as the Magic handed them their most lopsided loss of the season.
“It’s embarrassing,” said LeBron James, who never found his rhythm, finishing with 26 points on 7-of-20 shooting.
The Cavs have lost back-to-back games for just the second time in 2008-09. They have not dropped three in a row since March 22-29 of last season.
Cleveland has the league’s best scoring defense (91.3), but it’s been completely out of sync over the last two games.
After allowing an average of 91.3 points on 42.2 percent shooting during their win streak, the Cavs have given up an average of 112.5 points on 52.1 percent shooting in their two April games.
“It’s not about how many games you lose, it’s about how you lose them,” James said. “The last two games weren’t how we play the game of basketball.”
Returning to Cleveland should help the Cavs get back on track.
Cleveland plays four of its final six games at Quicken Loans Arena, where it’s 36-1 on the season.
The Spurs (49-26) arrive in Cleveland also trying to shake off a couple of poor performances - uncharacteristic for a team vying for the second seed in the competitive West.
San Antonio thrives on playing suffocating defense, but it looked flat in Friday’s 126-121 win over Indiana. The Pacers shot 51.6 percent in the game and scored 40 in the fourth quarter en route to the most points allowed by the Spurs in a non-overtime game this season.
Although it wasn’t pretty, San Antonio was able to get back in the win column after losing its previous two.
“We’re trying to get some momentum going,” said center Tim Duncan, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds. “We haven’t played well for the last 20 games. We’re in a heck of a race in the West. We’re just trying to hold onto our position and gain some confidence going into the playoffs.”
The Southwest Division-leading Spurs have seven games remaining and Tony Parker said the team isn’t quite where it needs to be.
“I still think we can be better, and I think (coach Gregg Popovich) is still choosing his rotation and who he’s going to play for the playoffs,” said Parker, who had 31 points and 10 assists Friday.
San Antonio lost to the Cavs at home 97-86 on Feb. 27, but the Spurs were without Manu Ginobili and Duncan due to injuries. James led Cleveland with 30 points and 14 rebounds, while Parker finished with 11 points on 3-of-16 shooting.