Sometimes, the Cleveland Cavaliers lose because of LeBron James and not in spite of him. The Indiana Pacers, getting their first taste of the Monta Ellis experience this season, learn the downside of having him from time to time.
The Cavaliers lost for the first time after five straight wins to the Detroit Pistons. While Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love combined to score 54 points on 52.7% from the field, James shot just 5-of-18, his worst shooting day of the season. And James making his shots has a very direct correlation with Cavaliers losses. He shoots 52.9% from the field in wins, but only 42.3% from the field in losses. The Cavaliers don’t need him forcing himself on the offense, especially when Irving and Love are doing so well.
And part of the good games for the Cavaliers, like in the win over the Thunder 24 hours earlier, is when James doesn’t try and score on his own. When he plays point guard from the forward position and tries to see the floor instead of dominate it, that is when the Cavs are at their best. Some nights are different and he has to try and score on his own, but the loss against the Pistons, their third at home since switching head coaches, had a lot to do with James not knowing it’s time for him to stop shooting and let someone else take over. Too bad that there’s no one really capable of telling him off on this team.
Ellis had an even worse shooting night with just 2-of-17 from the field as the Pacers lost in Miami. This isn’t something new for Ellis this season, shooting just 43.4% from the field after two improved years in terms of accuracy playing for the Dallas Mavericks. It’s the fourth time this season he has shot under 20% from the field, although never with so many shots. But anyone making Ellis such a big part of their offense (and it took him time to feel comfortable) knows these kind of games are bound to happen.
The Pacers are enjoying an exceptional season from Paul George, who is something of a transformed player after missing almost all of last season, while the Pacers bottomed out and missed the playoffs. But for them to be some sort of force in the playoffs, which means getting through the first round, Ellis has to be more responsible with his shooting and know when to stop, although that’s something he’s been struggling with his entire career.
James is often a lot more aware of what’s going on and can influence the game in more ways than just scoring. But there’s been the criticism of the Cavaliers flow and style being disrupted by James at times when his ego takes control. There were also accusations of him not being held accountable under David Blatt for playing poorly and making bad decisions. If the Cavaliers are to somehow upset the Warriors in what looks like the 2016 NBA Finals, James has to let go, stop forcing himself on the offense and be the guy the Cavaliers need him to be, not the one he wants to be.