Winners of six of seven, the Cleveland Cavaliers still don’t believe they are playing at their peak level.
The Cavs look to win their fifth straight over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon when they open a three-game road trip.
After a 3-3 start, Cleveland (14-5) has turned things around and begins this trip looking to win its fourth straight. The Cavs completed a 3-0 homestand by beating Dallas, Phoenix and Chicago by an average of almost 16 points.
“There is a long way to go; it’s just December,” said LeBron James(notes), who scored 23 and added 11 assists in Friday’s 101-87 win over the Bulls. “It is good to play well now but at the same time we do not want to reach our peak right now. We want to continue to get better and closer to playoff time is when we really want to start dominating.”
James, the Eastern Conference player of the month for November, helped key a 21-4 run Friday after Cleveland fell behind 54-52. He had eight points and three assists during that stretch.
“His energy was great,” coach Mike Brown said. “When he came to the sideline for a timeout, I told the coaches to step aside and said, ‘Bron, you take over the huddle.’”
The Cavaliers have limited opponents to an average of 91.4 points over the last seven games and they’ll open their trip - which also includes matchups with Memphis and Houston - against a Milwaukee team they held to 88.5 while sweeping the four-game season series in 2008-09.
James averaged 37.8 points against the Bucks last season, scoring 55 in his last visit to Milwaukee. He hit a career-high eight 3-pointers in the 111-103 victory.
The Bucks (9-9) are looking to avoid losing a third straight and fall below .500 for the first time since opening 1-2. They have dropped six of seven, with five of the losses coming on the road.
Milwaukee is coming off a 105-96 defeat at Detroit on Friday. The defense struggled to contain the Pistons, who shot 57.4 percent and outrebounded Milwaukee 46-30.
“They dominated us on the glass, and their backcourt dominated us,” assistant coach Jim Boylan said. “We’ve been talking a lot lately about our defensive approach to the game, but that’s all it was - talk. There was no substance tonight to what we’ve been talking about the past few days.”
Milwaukee’s opponents are averaging 104.0 points in the last seven and have shot better than 50 percent in four of those games. The Bucks gave up 94.5 points and allowed only three of their first 11 opponents to shoot better than 50 percent.
Milwaukee plays four of its next five at home, where it is 7-2. The Bucks also hope to get a boost from the return of coach Scott Skiles, who served a one-game suspension Friday for failing to leave the court in a timely manner after being ejected during Wednesday’s 104-102 loss at Washington.