December 14, 2014

The Charlotte Hornets are playoff-bound, and now they will face some tough matchups against the best in the Eastern Conference.

This three-game trip begins against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, with the Hornets still in contention for a division crown.

Charlotte (44-31) clinched Saturday when Chicago lost to Detroit. The Hornets are also in a tight Southeast Division race with Atlanta and Miami.

"It would be nice, especially for me," guard Kemba Walker said. "I've been through a lot in the last couple of years with this team. I think it would be really cool if we could win the division."

Charlotte will face the East's first two division champions on this trip, including Tuesday's game at Toronto. Up first is Cleveland (54-22) and James, whose 469 isolations rank third in the league.

"LeBron is gonna iso a lot and both (DeMar) DeRozan and (Kyle) Lowry are going to iso a lot," coach Steve Clifford said. "I don't know what the percentages would be but when you look into it, in a league where people don't iso a lot anymore, those teams do."

James is averaging 27.3 points in 24 home games against the Hornets, including two contests in the postseason with his career-best 61-point effort two seasons ago.

His 23-1 overall home record versus Charlotte trails only his 12-0 mark versus the Los Angeles Clippers and a 7-0 mark against Cleveland as far as winning percentage.

James was magnificent as he just missed a triple-double with 29 points, a season-high 16 rebounds and nine assists in Friday's 110-108 overtime road victory over the Hawks. He assisted on the Cavaliers' first two baskets of the extra session as they never trailed after regulation.

"We've been together for almost two years now, anytime we get an opportunity to experience a one-possession game or some adversity and you're able to come through it, it's a big moment for our team," said James, who moved past Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson into 11th place on the NBA's scoring list.

Kyrie Irving scored 20 and Kevin Love added 15 for the Cavaliers, who made 12 of 38 3-pointers to extend their streak of double-digit 3s to a franchise-best 14 straight games. Only Golden State had a longer run this season with 16 straight.

Cleveland is 2-1 against Charlotte this season, with James scoring between 23 and 25 in each contest. The team that has won the rebounding battle has prevailed each time, although Love managed his second-lowest total with two in a 114-103 home win Feb. 24 as the Cavaliers held a 47-43 edge.

Tristan Thompson, who grabbed 14 boards Friday, has totaled 22 in the wins over the Hornets. He was held to four as Charlotte enjoyed a 49-28 advantage in its 106-97 victory Feb. 3, prevailing despite playing without an injured Walker.

Charlotte is an East-leading 14-3 since the start of March and enters with a three-game win streak after defeating league-worst Philadelphia 100-85 on Tuesday and 100-91 on Friday. Walker had 27 points and a season-high 11 rebounds in the latest triumph.

Guard Nicolas Batum is averaging 21.0 points and 9.0 assists in his last three games. He is averaging 12.0 points and 5.0 assists versus Cleveland.

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