After a shaky start at home, the Cleveland Cavaliers have looked as dominant as ever lately. Their visitors Tuesday aren’t likely to change that trend.
Cleveland, which went 39-2 at home last season, looked surprisingly vulnerable in losses to Boston and Chicago during its first four home games.
Those problems have disappeared as the Cavs (17-7) have won seven straight at home over the last month, shooting 52.7 percent from the field in those games. James has gotten his teammates involved with an average of 10.0 assists in that stretch, along with a relatively modest 25.3 points.
After beating Portland 104-99 in their most recent home game, the Cavs won 102-89 at Oklahoma City on Sunday. They were buoyed by a fourth-quarter half-court shot from Mo Williams(notes), who fired in desperation as the shot clock expired.
The biggest factor was still James, who scored a season-high 44 points and was 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
“It’s tough to guard a guy who’s that quick, that strong, that’s making shots that deep,” Oklahoma City’s Jeff Green(notes) said. “He’s one of the top players in the NBA. He turned it on when his team needed it the most.”
James is trying to lead the Cavs back to the NBA finals after they fell short the last two seasons, but the team has slipped behind Boston, Orlando and Atlanta in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets (2-22) are simply trying to save face in the wake of their historically bad start, as they became the first team in NBA history to open the season with 18 consecutive losses. They finally beat Charlotte on Dec. 4 and earned their first road win at Chicago last Tuesday, but their problems have resurfaced on this road trip.
After shooting 36.3 percent in a 107-91 loss at Indiana on Friday, New Jersey allowed a season high in points to the Hawks, who shot 11 of 17 from 3-point range during a 130-107 win over the Nets on Sunday.
“We were hanging tough with a top-four team in the East, pretty much for - what fraction should I say? - five-eighths of the game?” New Jersey center Brook Lopez(notes) said. “That’s correct, right? So, we were in there. It just kind of fell out from under us offensively and defensively the beginning of the third quarter. I’m sure it’s tough writing about us.”
Lopez has been one of the few bright spots for New Jersey, ranking fifth in the NBA with 13 double-doubles. Another emerging contributor is Chris Douglas-Roberts(notes), who is averaging 16.2 points but missed Sunday’s game with a knee problem. It’s unclear if he’ll play Tuesday.
The Nets’ woeful offense certainly doesn’t need any more challenges, as the team ranks last in the league in points per game (89.3) and field goal percentage (41.5).
New Jersey has averaged 85.0 points during a four-game losing streak to the Cavs. This is the first of four meetings this season.