Another inferior opponent awaits the Eastern Conference’s top team, but this club won’t be in the bidding for the reigning league MVP.
James looks to lead the Cavaliers to their sixth straight win Friday night against the lowly Detroit Pistons, who try to avoid losing their sixth in a row.
This summer’s free agent class is filled with All-Star talent that includes Miami’s Dwyane Wade(notes) and Toronto’s Chris Bosh(notes). To no surprise, James is the most highly coveted player in the group, and two teams expected to throw the most money at him in the offseason are New York and New Jersey.
James and company made quick work of these overmatched opponents in Cleveland’s last two games.
He scored 22 points in just 31 minutes Monday as the Cavaliers (48-14) led by as much as 49 in cruising to a 124-93 win over the Knicks. Two days later, the six-time All-Star had 26 points and 14 assists, one shy of his career high, in a 111-92 victory over the Nets.
Although New York and New Jersey are near the bottom of the East standings, they’re hoping to turn things around by making a big splash this summer.
The same cannot be said for the woeful Pistons.
Detroit (21-40) used the money it freed up in last season’s franchise-altering, Chauncey Billups(notes)-Allen Iverson deal to sign Ben Gordon(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes), who are now relegated to reserve roles. It could now take a couple of seasons for the Pistons to again be competitive.
Detroit allowed a season-high for points as its losing streak continued with a 128-104 loss to the Knicks on Wednesday.
Another defensive effort like that could spell trouble for Detroit as the Cavs are averaging 114.8 points on 52.3 percent shooting during their winning streak.
J.J. Hickson(notes) has stepped up on the offensive end for Cleveland in starting the last two games for Shaquille O’Neal(notes), who is expected to be out until late April after undergoing surgery on his right thumb.
Hickson had 17 points and nine rebounds against New York and followed with 20 points and 13 boards versus the Nets.
“He’s the starting center until something in my gut tells me not to,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “I just felt I’m going to go with J.J. When I thought it, it felt right. I’ll stay with him until I feel I need to make change.”
This will be Cleveland’s first game against Detroit since a 98-88 win at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Nov. 25 behind James’ 34 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
The Cavs have won four straight over the Pistons and will face them twice more in the next 2 1/2 weeks. These Central Division rivals meet in Detroit on March 16 before wrapping up the season series five days later in Cleveland.