With a refocused Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping to add to their recent success. A visit from the Charlotte Bobcats could also help in that attempt.
The Cavaliers will try to earn their sixth win in nine games and fifth in their last six at home Wednesday night against the struggling Bobcats.
After averaging 35.7 points and shooting 61.2 percent over a three-game stretch late last month, Irving was held to 14 points in back-to-back games. The All-Star guard admitted after the latter of those contests, a 117-99 loss at Detroit on Friday, that he "got disinterested" and let the game get away from him. He then promised to change that quickly.
Irving lived up to that vow Saturday against one of the best teams in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City. He scored 13 of his 35 points in the final 2:52 and made his final five shots in a 115-110 win.
"It's my responsibility as a leader of this team to do this every single night," Irving said. "It has to come from within."
Marreese Speights contributed 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 10 rebounds in his fifth game with Cleveland (14-34). The reserve has scored in double digits in each contest since being acquired from Memphis on Jan. 22
"I love what I see," coach Byron Scott said. "He's a great kid around these guys, and he's very vocal, which is what we need."
Cavaliers fans have probably loved what they've seen from their team in recent matchups with the Bobcats (11-36).
Cleveland has won five straight overall over Charlotte and 13 of 14 all-time home matchups. The Cavaliers have claimed the last three of those games at Quicken Loans Arena by an average of 12.4 points.
The most recent meeting was a little closer as Cleveland needed Irving's help to escape with a 106-104 win in Charlotte on Jan. 4. The point guard hit a jumper from the foul line with one second left and scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter.
That loss was the only one in a three-game stretch for the Bobcats, but they are 2-12 since and have dropped seven of eight on the road.
Charlotte was competitive against East-leading Miami on Monday but fell 99-94 in the fourth of a season-high five-game road trip.
Ramon Sessions had a team-best 18 points in that defeat and is averaging 19.2 over his past six contests - 4.2 better than his season average. The ex-Cleveland guard had 20 points in last month's loss to his former team.
The Bobcats played Monday without No. 2 overall draft pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who suffered a concussion after colliding with teammate Jeff Taylor in a loss to Houston on Saturday. Kidd-Gilchrist's status is unknown, but Byron Mullens is expected to play his second game since recovering from an ankle injury.
Mullens, who missed 19 games, had 12 points and nine rebounds in his return Monday.
"I'm still kind of concerned jumping off of it and getting hurt again," he said, "but I just have to go out there and play with full confidence and not worry about it."
Ben Gordon had a team-leading 27 points in the most recent matchup with the Cavaliers, but he's averaging just 9.8 in his last five games in Cleveland.
The Associated Press News Service
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