The Cleveland Cavaliers are scorching, winning seven games in a row and 13 of their last 15. However, their most recent one, over the Philadelphia 76ers, aka the worst team in the NBA, came thanks to a special night from LeBron James, and that shouldn’t be the case.
James scored 37 points, tied for his season high (third game like this) and his second game with 34 points or more in the Cavs last three. He shot 15-of-22 from the field including three 3-pointers, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 9 assists. The Cavaliers and James himself (when his ego doesn’t take over) would prefer things to be a little more balanced, especially given the opportunity to play such a bad team, but sometimes situation develop differently than planned.
And it seems the balanced night for the Cavaliers happens or not depending on Kyrie Irving. He’s a more solistic player than James, and if he’s rolling, LeBron feels he can feed others more and not try to do things himself. Frankly, the Cavaliers are better when James doesn’t try to do the scoring himself. Well he didn’t try, but with Irving shooting just 3-of-15 from the field (9 points) and that having its effect on the entire team, there was no other way.
Maybe the player who suffers more than anyone when it’s not so much team basketball is J.R. Smith, dragged along by Irving to a bad shooting night and bad basketball, hitting just 5-of-18 from the field, although a lot of the Cavaliers shooting 38.9% from the field (it was much worse without James) was missing open shots. It happens, and against some teams it isn’t as costly, but deeper into the season and especially come April, May and June if they last that long, those are serious NBA sins.
Kevin Love scored 15 points. Like James, Irving doing so poorly pushed him into doing a lot more, finishing with 11 rebounds and 7 assists as well. In this winning streak he’s scoring 13 points per game while taking only 10.7 shots a night. The Cavaliers do need him to be more accurate (only 39% from the field, 33.3% from beyond the arc in this stretch), but overall, him being someone who doesn’t really force himself on the game through shooting is the general plan, leaving that to Irving and if necessary, James as well.