Daily Confidential

Behind LeBron James' brilliance, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

They'll try to deal with their first taste of adversity when they play without shooting guard Larry Hughes at home on Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Signed before last season to be the No. 2 man to James, Hughes missed 45 games because of a broken finger and never got into the flow of the offense. The shooting guard had gotten off to a solid start this year, averaging 13.8 points - second on the team behind James - before spraining his right ankle in Cleveland's 100-87 win over Portland on Wednesday.

At the minimum, Hughes is expected to miss Friday's game and Saturday's road contest at Washington.

With the Cavaliers (6-2) playing four games in five days next week, it's possible Hughes may miss more time as he tries to return to health.

``We know how to play without him, but we don't want to play without him,'' forward Donyell Marshall said. ``He missed 45 games last year, and that was a big part of our season. We don't want to play (that long) without him.''

Sasha Pavlovic, averaging 7.5 points, could replace Hughes in the starting lineup. For now, though, the Cavaliers will go back to doing what works best - relying heavily on James.

He scored 32 points and had seven assists and seven rebounds on Wednesday to lead Cleveland to its fourth straight victory. The Cavaliers have started 6-2 in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.

``We did a nice job of getting into a good flow,'' James said. ``I think we executed offensively and defensively and we got another good win.''

James and company could have their work cut out for them against Minnesota (3-4), despite the Timberwolves' struggles this season.

Minnesota has won six of the last eight meetings between the teams, including five of the last seven in Cleveland.

``It's going to be a good matchup,'' James said. ''(Kevin Garnett) is still one of the premier big men in the league, so we have to try to key in as much as possible.''

Garnett has been his usual dominant self for the Timberwolves, who snapped a four-game losing streak with 101-89 win over Portland on Tuesday. Garnett had 20 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks against the Blazers, and is averaging 22.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks through the first seven games.

Former Cavalier Ricky Davis scored a season-high 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting to help the Timberwolves reach the 100-point mark for just the second time this season. He had shot 32 percent during Minnesota's losing streak.

``He came in early this morning and got 200 shots off,'' Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. ``That's what you have to do. If you're a golfer, you hit golf balls. If you're a basketball player in a shooting slump, you come out and shoot. Hopefully he has that stroke back.''

Davis played 2 1/2 years with Cleveland, averaging a career-high 20.6 points in 2002-03. He's scored 60 total points in his last two games against the Cavaliers.

James averaged 36.5 points in two games against the Timberwolves last season.

Minnesota has lost its last three road games.

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