Cleveland (57-16) has won by an average of 5.8 points in its last five matchups with Sacramento (24-49), and that figure is skewed a bit by the Cavaliers’ 117-104 overtime victory Dec. 23 in which the Kings were outscored 13-0 after regulation. LeBron James(notes) had 34 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in that game and scored 51 in the previous meeting, a 126-123 victory that also went overtime March 13, 2009.
The Kings, though, could struggle to compete without Evans, who leads all rookies with a team-high 20.3 scoring average. He will miss his fifth straight game with a concussion and Sacramento has struggled offensively in losing the last three, averaging 83.3 points on 39.7 percent shooting.
All of that should be bad news against a Cleveland team that has a magic number of four to clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers also may be motivated after their eight-game win streak ended with a 102-97 loss at San Antonio on Friday.
James had 27 points and 10 assists while Antawn Jamison(notes) added 24 points for Cleveland, which had six scoreless possessions down the stretch. James missed two shots and had a turnover in that period.
“I’ve seen every coverage before, so I’ve got past the frustration stage,” James said. “They did a good job of keeping bodies in front of bodies, sometimes double-teams, sometimes trapping.”
Coach Mike Brown felt the loss in a playoff-type atmosphere could benefit his team in the long run.
“If we were ahead or we were down, I thought we played good the entire game,” Brown said. “Our guys were engaged and executed the entire game.”
This will be Zydrunas Ilgauskas’(notes) first home game in his second stint with the club since he was re-signed Tuesday. Ilgauskas has five points and seven boards in two games since rejoining the Cavs, and the center keyed the December win over the Kings by making a career-high three 3-pointers in the final 2:11.
Sacramento trailed by 20 points at halftime Friday before taking solace in outscoring the Celtics 49-37 in the second half. Carl Landry(notes) scored 30 points and Beno Udrih(notes) added 16 and 12 assists.
“We battled back and that’s all you can ask playing against a team like that,” said forward Dominic McGuire(notes), who started for Evans. “For a young team like this, this is what you’ve got to measure yourself against. So it was big for us.”