LeBron James scored 57 points to stop the Cleveland Cavaliers losing streak, scraping by the Washington Wizards 130-122. As happy as they might be about finally tasting victory, it could be another worrying sign about things to come this season.
Maybe this is the solution for the Cavs: Have James play out of his mind every night, and hope for the best. The team can’t play defense (114.5 per 100 possessions, the worst in the NBA), and allowed the Wizards an offensive rating of 121.8. Their second best scorer (on paper) is out until January (and maybe longer), and most of the older guys who were supposed to give them that little extra look… well, old.
Derrick Rose seems to be the exception. He finished with 20 points, his best scoring-game of the season so far, looking good after missing a few games. Rose has scored in double figures every game, and while the Cavaliers don’t look like a group that’s well-trained at the moment on both ends of the floor, Rose is making the most of the attention James is getting and teams opening up their defenses (they’re shooting just under 30 three-pointers a game) to wreck some havoc inside, averaging 16 points a night on 50.8% shooting.
But this was James’ night, surpassing 29,000 career points, and later saying he’s feeling the best he has ever been. James is in his 15th NBA season, just so you get a grasp of what he’s saying, as he approaches his 33rd birthday, averaging 29.1 points per game on 37.7 minutes a night. Last season he led the league in minutes per game. The Cavaliers masterplan a while back was to slowly give James less and less time on the floor, but the way things have turned out, which means bad management and a bit of unfortunate circumstances, means he’s needed more than ever before.
It was James’ 11th 50-point game, his first since 2014. He made it about attacking the Wizards paint, again and again, shooting only 4 threes all game long. The Cavaliers needed him to, and probably need him to almost every night. They won’t get 57, but unless their defense comes together at one point in the coming weeks as they aim to correct the mistakes of the first two weeks, he’ll still need to put up extraordinary offensive numbers to keep the ship afloat.
After the win, the Cavs are 10th in the East with a 4-5 record. Their next game is against the lowly Atlanta Hawks, followed by another home game, facing the Milwaukee Bucks. None of the games are back-to-back.