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Return of LeBron James can’t save Cavaliers vs. Suns

Photo Credit: FoxSports.com

Photo Credit: FoxSports.com

Eight games without LeBron James felt like an eternity for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers went 1-7 with James sidelined due to lower back and left knee strains, so the return of James against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night was a god send.

Only, the return of the four-time MVP didn’t change a thing when it came to the most important stat there is: Wins and losses. Cleveland stormed back from a 19-point second-half deficit to take a two-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Phoenix made the big plays down the stretch to pull out a 107-100 victory. The Cavaliers’ loss was their sixth in a row, and they couldn’t even cover a 4½-point spread as underdogs. So in addition to six consecutive losses straight up, this was a sixth straight loss against the spread, according to VegasInsider.com.

James did his part, scoring a team-high 33 points while also piling up seven rebounds and five assists. Newcomer J.R Smith also played well, scoring 29 points and hitting eight three-pointers in the process. Smith’s three-point barrage at the end of the third quarter helped erase the massive deficit.

But the efforts of James and Smith weren’t enough to overcome terrible defense and the poor play of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Love and Irving scored nine points apiece and combined to shoot 7-of-25 from the field. Irving also racked up a whopping eight turnovers. Meanwhile, their counterparts dominated.

Markieff Morris owned Love, putting up a game-high 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting. Suns point guard Goran Dragic had 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Phoenix shot 52.6 percent from the field overall and 56.8 percent in the first half.

Things were so bad for Love that he didn’t even play a single minute in the fourth quarter. I don’t think that’s what he had in mind when he was traded to this supposed super team from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With the loss, the Cavaliers have fallen a game under .500 at 19-20. Cleveland is now a full game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, and amazingly, the Cavaliers are just 1½ games ahead of the Miami Heat. Yes, James’s new team is barely ahead of his old team.

On top of everything, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst detailed some of the other problems with the team right now:

They see players appearing to run different plays than the bench calls, see assistant coach Tyronn Lue calling timeouts literally behind Blatt’s back during games, and hear Cavs players openly talking about coaching issues with opposing players and personnel. Not once, not twice, but frequently over the past several months.

It’s starting to get a bit ugly in Cleveland, and one has to wonder how much longer rookie head coach David Blatt has if things continue to go south. It would be rough to fire a coach just halfway into his first season, but expectations were very high with the return of James and the acquisition of Love, and those expectations aren’t even close to being met. It’s also important to remember that Blatt was hired before James decided to come back to Cleveland, and considering how much sway James has within the organization, he could play a big role in any decision about Blatt’s future.

There’s still time to turn things around, and that should begin with a date against the woeful Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. However, a loss at Staples Center with a healthy roster would be rock bottom, and perhaps even a death knell for Blatt.


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