Having clinched a second straight Central Division title, the Cleveland Cavaliers are focused on securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
After appearing to be on their way to joining Cleveland in the postseason, the Chicago Bulls have fallen out of playoff position with their worst losing streak in five years.
The Cavaliers go for their sixth straight win when they visit the slumping Bulls on Friday night.
Cleveland (54-15) has a comfortable lead over Orlando for the top seed, and won the Central with a 99-94 victory over Indiana on Wednesday.
“Anytime you can put a banner up for this franchise, it’s great,” said James, who recorded a triple-double the night before in a win over Detroit. “It’s a big tribute to the fans, this organization, the players and coaching staff and everyone around it. It’s big.”
The win was Cleveland’s 24th straight against teams with losing records, and they will get a chance to extend that streak against the Bulls (31-36). The teams have split two games in 2009-10, both at Quicken Loans Arena, with the Cavs winning the most recent matchup 101-87 on Dec. 4.
The Bulls have lost nine in a row for the first time since the start of the 2004-05 season, a slide that has dropped them into ninth in the East.
Cleveland, though, has maintained its focus against lesser teams all season long, and seems certain to not take Chicago likely after being tested by the Pacers and lowly Detroit in its last two contests.
“It’s that time of the year where you find teams that are out of the playoffs and these are their playoff games,” guard Mo Williams(notes) said. “It shows a lot from us … what we do to withstand, especially in the last two games.”
James and the Cavaliers could be in for a big offensive performance against a Bulls team that has given up at least 100 points in the last 12 contests.
Chicago fell 113-106 at Dallas on Wednesday. The Bulls trailed by as many as 25 but scored on 11 of its first 12 possessions in the fourth quarter to pull within eight. J.J. Barea, however, responded with 10 straight points to put the Mavericks back in control.
Chicago fell behind by 25 for the second straight contest after losing 104-97 to Memphis on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to tighten up defensively,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “That’s how we won early in the season. We’ve got to control the paint and control penetration. … The first half was very easy for them.”
The statuses of Deng and Rose are uncertain for Friday. Noah, who has played three times since Feb. 3, is unlikely to suit up.
Chicago, which has not lost 10 in a row since Nov. 7-27, 2001, is 2 1/2 games behind Toronto for the eighth spot.