The Cleveland Cavaliers have few complaints about their Kyrie Irving-led offense, but it's been trumped by a suspect defense that ranks among the worst in the league.
It's been quite the opposite for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Cleveland looks to end a five-game losing streak Sunday night when it visits Philadelphia, which has made up for its lack of scoring with one of the NBA's best defenses.
Irving ranks among the league's scoring leaders averaging 24.4 points, but that hasn't helped translate to many wins for the struggling Cavaliers (2-7). The reigning rookie of the year scored a career-high 34 points in a loss to Brooklyn on Tuesday before tallying 26 against Dallas in Saturday's 103-95 defeat at home.
He hit 11 of 21 shots despite leaving briefly in the third quarter with a contusion to his left index finger. Irving, though, finished without an assist for the first time in his 60-game career.
Irving said he intends to play Sunday despite still feeling pain in his hand.
``I'm not feeling comfortable with my left hand and attacking the rim,' he said. ``I had only one hand and I was trying to force shots over Chris Kaman."
Part of the reason for Cleveland's struggles has been its defense, which ranks near the bottom of the league allowing 104.6 points per game. The Cavs have given up over 100 points in eight straight after a season-opening 94-84 win over Washington.
Coach Byron Scott refused to blame the team's youth for its struggles.
``Young is a cop-out,' Scott said. ``We're still basketball players.'
In a scheduling quirk, the Cavs will play two straight against Philadelphia as the teams meet in Cleveland on Wednesday. The 76ers host Toronto on Tuesday in between.
The Cavs will get consecutive looks at a Philadelphia defense that is one of the NBA's stingiest giving up an average of 91.3 points.
The Sixers snapped a three-game home losing streak with Friday's 99-93 victory over Utah.
``Anytime you get a win against a good team, it's huge,' said Jason Richardson, who tied his season high with 20 points. ``You don't want teams coming in and feeling like they can beat you.'
The 76ers (5-4), though, have made life difficult for themselves due to an offense that didn't score more than 88 points until the fifth game of the season and has an average of 89.2 per contest. Only winless Washington is averaging fewer.
Philadelphia's 40.8 field goal percentage also is among the NBA's worst, but Jrue Holiday said the team is improving in that respect. The Sixers shot 46 percent Friday and hit 10 of 18 from 3-point range.
"I think we've gotten a lot of good shots in a lot of good places," said Holiday, who had a game-high 26 points against Utah. "We're a jump-shooting team and even though we've missed some shots I think they've been good shots."
Philadelphia held a lead after the first quarter for the first time in four games.
"Hitting them first and getting the lead early definitely helps," Holiday said.
Philadelphia has won five straight meetings by an average of 14.6 points after dropping 10 of the previous 11. Holiday scored a game-high 24 points while Irving was held to nine in the Sixers' 103-87 victory April 18.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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