Cleveland (17-63) at Detroit (29-51)

By JEFF MEZYDLO, STATS Senior Writer Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 Tipoff: 7:30 pm EDT Mon Apr 11, 2011

Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers finished with the best record in the NBA. Now, they are simply trying to keep from having the worst.

The visiting Cavaliers look to avoid a third straight loss when they face the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

With LeBron James(notes) leading the way, Cleveland went 61-21 to earn homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs in 2009-10. That advantage didn’t last long as the Cavaliers lost in six games to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Things went downhill for the franchise from there.

James soon left for Miami and the Cavaliers (17-63) could not overcome injuries to Anderson Varejao(notes) and later Antwan Jamison while relying on young players to be competitive this season.

Last in the East, Cleveland is tied with Minnesota for the NBA’s worst record with two games remaining. While the Timberwolves play at Phoenix and host Houston to conclude their schedule, the Cavaliers have potentially winnable games versus Detroit (29-51) and at home against Washington.

“We’re all competitors and once you step out there on the floor you’re going to compete, if you’re a competitor,” guard Daniel Gibson(notes) told the Cavaliers’ official website. “We have to figure out how to finish this season the right way because the end of this season will say a lot about our plans for next year.”

The Cavaliers didn’t look like a team trying to salvage some pride in Saturday’s 108-101 loss at Milwaukee, seemingly playing with little intensity while giving up 60 points the first 24 minutes.

The Cavaliers fared better in the second half, but could not avoid a second straight defeat after winning two in a row. Baron Davis(notes) scored 19 points and big man J.J. Hickson(notes) added 11 with 12 rebounds.

Hickson has been one of the few bright spots for the Cavaliers, averaging 19.4 points and 12.5 boards the last 11 games. He had 24 points with 15 rebounds as Cleveland avoided a third consecutive loss to the Pistons with a 97-91 home win March 25.

Detroit will miss the playoffs for the second straight season, but is trying for a season-high fourth consecutive victory.

Rodney Stuckey(notes) had 24 points with 11 assists as the Pistons shot a road season-high 55.6 percent to win for the second time in three days since California investor Tom Gores reached a deal to buy the team.

“We’ve got to get back to the old days that Detroit basketball has been,” Stuckey said. “Hopefully, this new owner can come in and make tremendous changes.”

One change could come at the top of the coaching staff, though embattled coach John Kuester said he hopes to return for the last year of his contract.

“You’re in a business where you’re in it to win. If you’re not continually winning, I understand,” Kuester said. “But do I feel comfortable and confident in doing the job? Absolutely.”

Stuckey, who also had 24 points and 11 assists in a 102-92 home win over Cleveland on Dec. 5, has averaged 19.0 points against the Cavaliers this season.

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Monday, Apr 11