The Cleveland Cavaliers made a statement two weeks ago on a Western Conference road trip and seem to be expecting even better success on another one.
The first stop could be an easy one depending on who the Denver Nuggets have available to play.
Cleveland (28-9) has won five straight on the road since a 102-95 loss to Dallas on Dec. 20. That was the opener of a four-game trip in which the Cavaliers bounced back with three wins, beating Phoenix and the Lakers along the way.
This stretch includes visits to face Portland, Golden State, Utah and the Clippers. The Cavaliers feel they can do better than the 3-1 trek last month.
“This is one of those road trips where you have to be focused on every team, and I think we can beat them (all) if we do everything right,” center Shaquille O’Neal(notes) said. “We just have to be focused and just do everything right and I think if we do that, then we will be fine.”
The Northwest Division-leading Nuggets (22-13) could probably be considered the toughest test on this trip if not for their lengthy injury list. Anthony - averaging 30.0 points to tie Kobe Bryant(notes) for the league lead - has missed three straight games with a knee bruise and Chauncey Billups(notes) eight of the last nine with a groin problem.
“My health is more important right now,” Anthony said.
Chris Andersen(notes) has missed two straight games with an ankle injury while rookie Ty Lawson(notes) and Nene suffered sprained ankles in Tuesday’s 123-122 road win over the Warriors. All three are game-time decisions.
“I thought we fought really hard to win the game and fortunately we did,” coach George Karl said. “With all the guys we have banged up, we can remember this win and the Utah win (last week) very highly in the future. You don’t always win the right way or perfectly.”
The Cavs have won 13 of 15 after a 121-98 rout of Washington on Wednesday. James led six players in double figures with 23 points.
Since James and Anthony entered the league in 2003-04, the Nuggets have won eight of 12 against the Cavs with James playing in every contest and Anthony missing one. Anthony was held to an average of 15.5 points last season in two losses.
“The West Coast is always difficult no matter who you play,” James said. “This long trip is going to be a challenge for us, but we’re a good enough team to accept the challenge.”