The Cleveland Cavaliers do not have a good defense (108.1 points allowed per 100 possessions, 22nd in the NBA), so when they win it’s usually because their powerful offense just explodes and they simply overwhelm and outscore the opponent.
The Cavs weren’t doing that Friday night, they were trailing the Orlando Magic. LeBron was 5-of-13 shooting, he was not taking charge of the game. Meanwhile Tobias Harris had 16 points by the middle of the third quarter and he had the Magic up by two.
Then Harris made a tactical mistake — don’t wake a sleeping LeBron. Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer breaks down what happened.
Midway through the third, Harris was facing up James on the baseline and to create some separation; he flung his elbows around in the vicinity of James’ face. James backed up to avoid the connection, but he took exception and said something to Harris.
The two jawed back and forth at one another and had to be separated. While walking away, Harris yelled, “Stop flopping….”
Two possessions later, James stole a crosscourt pass and shot out on a one-man break. Orlando’s Elfrid Payton managed to get a hold of James from the back and James took him along for the ride to finish the left-handed layup, plus the foul….
From that point on James dominated Harris, going 5-of-7 in the final 17 minutes. He scored 15 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth. After that alteration with James, Harris only scored one point. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-12.
Come on, did Harris’ workds really spark LeBron?
“It wasn’t the shoulder or the elbow, it was the words that he said that got me going,” James acknowledged. “I was actually in chill mode tonight but chill mode was deactivated after that.”
Cleveland won 89-81, Orlando scored just 14 points in the fourth.
LeBron remains the best player on the planet. He really can’t go into “chill mode” and have this team rack up wins, the Cavaliers just are not good enough yet. They are vulnerable when he isn’t pushing the offense. This isn’t about David Blatt as coach, this is about the front office putting the right players around their big thee as role players. They aren’t all there yet. This team needs defenders. And until that roster gets tweaks LeBron is going to have to be the best player on the planet. Nightly.