April 17, 2014

Medina
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Cavs: Three-point showdown put on hold

INDEPENDENCE — The proposed 3-point contest between Kyrie Irving and coach Byron Scott did not take place, Irving’s left ankle felt fine, a deflating loss the previous evening was ancient history and the team with the best record in the NBA comes to Quicken Loans Arena tonight.

Other than that, not much was happening Tuesday afternoon when the Cavaliers practiced at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Byron Scott

That practice was supposed to include a shooting battle between Irving, who will take part in the Three-Point Contest on Saturday as part of All-Star Weekend, and the 51-year-old Scott, who finished last in the event in 1987 and third in 1988, but it never materialized.

Scott did watch as the 20-year-old point guard went through a 60-second practice round of shooting five balls from five racks, with the first four balls in each worth one point and the last worth two. Irving scored a 21.

“If it happens, great,” Irving said when asked if the challenge with Scott might still take place. “If it doesn’t, I know I’m a better shooter than Coach Scott. I believe it and he believes it.”

Of more significance, Irving displayed no limp after tweaking his left ankle when he landed on the foot of Minnesota’s Alexey Shved upon making a 3-pointer with 40.3 seconds left in the first half Monday.

However, the second-year pro did complain of a lot of general soreness with one game left to play before All-Star Weekend, where he will take part in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Three-Point Contest on Saturday and the All-Star Game on Sunday.

“I’m as sore as ever right now,” Irving said. “Starting off the game, I felt like Minnesota was a triple back-to-back, honestly. That’s a first for me. It’s probably not the last.”

In continuing a season-long trend of playing without much focus and determination at home against a bad or ailing opponent, the Cavs lost 100-92 to a Minnesota club that had dropped four straight, 15 of its last 17 and eight in a row on the road.

“We’re going to throw this game away and focus on (tonight),” Scott said. “I said my piece as far as some things I think guys needed to hear.

“I also said, ‘Enough of this talk. You guys have got to start doing what you’re supposed to do every single night. It can’t be three or four games where we come out and play hard and two or three where we don’t. If you are really serious about getting better as a team, you’ve got to compete every single night.’”

Making the loss worse for the Cavs, who had won three straight and seven of their last 10 prior to falling to Denver on Saturday, Minnesota was without leading scorer Kevin Love and four other players who average a combined 54.1 points. That didn’t prevent the Timberwolves from winning for just the fourth time in 20 games since Love went down with broken bones in his hand.

Next up is a San Antonio team that has won 13 of its last 14 games and has the best record in the league at 41-12.

The Spurs are in the midst of a nine-game road trip sandwiched around the All-Star break, as this is the time of year when the rodeo makes its annual stop in San Antonio.

Exactly who will be in uniform for the Spurs is uncertain, as veteran stars Tony Parker (knee), Tim Duncan (knee) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) all sat out Monday when the team won in Chicago. Duncan has missed the last four games and Ginobili has missed five in a row, while Parker played Sunday in Brooklyn.

Regardless of who plays or doesn’t play for the Spurs — they started Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Nando De Colo on Monday — they still have the best record in the league.

That means the Cavs, who have played their best ball against the best teams, should be up for the game.

“We have to find consistency and be up for the Minnesota Timberwolves or Detroit Pistons,” Irving said. “It’s not just about San Antonio (tonight). We have to find consistency on a night-to-night basis with our effort at both ends of the floor.

“Obviously, guys are going to be up to play San Antonio. They’re probably the best team in our league.”

The Spurs won championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, and they are expected to be in the thick of things again this year.

“They have rings,” Irving said. “That’s the most important thing. I want one myself.”

Tip-ins

Cavs head trainer Max Benton and assistant Stephen Spiro will comprise the Eastern Conference training staff for the entire All-Star Weekend. Benton is in his 12th season with the Cavs and 18th in the NBA, while this is Spiro’s third season with the team.

 Parker (20.7), Duncan (17.3) and Ginobili (12.5) are San Antonio’s top three scorers. No one else averages more than 11.0.

 The 6-foot-6 Green was drafted by the Cavs with the 46th overall pick in 2009. He played 20 games for Cleveland as a rookie, averaging 2.0 points, but has found a home in San Antonio, where he’s started 51 of the team’s 53 games and averaged 10.2 points.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.