Beating the Charlotte Hornets isn’t so special these days, but the Cleveland Cavaliers and especially LeBron James could still find a thing or two to rejoice about, probably due to the fact that Lance Stephenson, the villain in the eyes of some thanks to some unsavory antics last season, was on the losing side.
James scored 27 points on 11-of-19 from the field to go with 7 rebounds and 13 assists, leading the Cavs to a 97-88 win, making it a third straight loss for the Hornets who can’t seem to get a grip on this season. They’ve now fallen to 6-18 including a pathetic 1-10 on the road as their offensive woes continue, this time exemplified by another bad game for Stephenson (4-of-12 from the field with 8 points) keep trying to find a lineup that will get his team of this mess.
The Cavaliers had a great start to the game, jumping to a 21-0 lead but the Hornets managed to pull back to within two points in the third quarter, but as it often goes, making the comeback takes away too much energy and mental effort for teams to actually finish the job. The Cavaliers ended up winning for the sixth straight time at home, something they haven’t been able to do since James left them for more successful achievements in Miami. The 21-0 run by the Cavaliers was the best start to a game by a team since a 22-point run without being answered by the Blazers against the Boston Celtics in 2004.
James was helped by 22 points from Kevin Love, who also quietly grabbed 18 rebounds to go with his five assists, adding a few of his famous “touchdown” passes, which James also pulled off even when using his weaker hand. Kyrie Irving scored 16 points as he continues to look a bit different in recent games, while Tristan Thompson added 10 off the bench. The Cavaliers finished with 28 assists on their 38 field goals.
James has been taking more and more of the facilitator role, even if it isn’t coming in the way of his scoring too much. He has now had 10 assists or more in seven games out of the 22 this season. Last season with the Heat he had only seven games with 10 assists or more. He’s averaging 1.5 assists per game more than he did last season, and it isn’t a matter of minutes, but efficiency. However, his scoring is slightly down, more due to the fact that his shooting percentage has dropped below .500 for the first time since the 2008-2009 season.
The Hornets know something is wrong with the team and this isn’t just a matter of things getting better with time. The reshuffling and changes over the offseason didn’t come out too well, and they’re already looking to make some changes. Stephenson and his $9 million per year salary seems to be the first thing they’re looking to unload, but it’ll probably be difficult finding someone willing to take on a player proving to be an immediate problem, even if it didn’t come with high profile antics on the court.