LeBron James is starting to squawk about wanting more help at what seems to be the precise moment his team has hit a rough patch. This feels like a yearly occurrence when the Cavs, who are still three games up in the conference despite dropping their third in a row, appear vulnerable. And this recent slide has highlighted a few areas of concern for the defending champs.
Defense has been lacking
The Cavs have allowed at least 100 points in each of their past 11 games, going 4-7 during that stretch. A team that normally clamps down on opponents is struggling to do so this season. Cleveland is in the middle of the pack (13th) in points allowed per game, giving up 104.9. In contrast, the Cavs finished fourth in that category last season, allowing just 98.3. If the defending champs hope to win back-to-back titles, they’re going to need to fix this and soon.
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LeBron is playing too many minutes
Yes, LeBron is asking for more help, but he actually has a reason to make this request. He’s leading the league in minutes per game (37.5). He played 45 minutes in Wednesday’s loss, 44 minutes in Monday loss to the Pelicans and 45 minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Spurs. Thirteen times this season he’s played at least 40 minutes — the same total he amassed in all of the regular season last year.
Cavs are struggling against sub-par teams
During this 11-game stretch, the Cavs have lost to more sub-.500 clubs than winning teams. There’s no shame in losing to the Warriors (though a 35-point loss is a bit much), Spurs or even the upstart Jazz at Utah. But falling to the 18-27 Kings, 18-28 Pelicans (without Anthony Davis), 19-27 Blazers and 23-23 Bulls is a possible sign of complacency.
Ken BlazeUSA TODAY Sports
Kevin Love is struggling from the floor
Love was showing flashes of the perennial All-Star power forward who was a one-man terror in Minnesota, then the calendar flipped to 2017. He’s averaging 15.1 points this month and is struggling badly from the floor (34 percent) and beyond the arc (26 percent). Getting Love back on track will help lessen the load for LeBron and Kyrie Irving, who is playing 35.1 minutes per game.
Brace HemmelgarnUSA TODAY Sport
Kyle Korver still finding his way with Cavs
Korver has brought his 3-point touch from Atlanta, hitting 43 percent of his shots from deep since joining the Cavs, but it might not be a coincidence that the Cavs’ defense has struggled since his acquisition. Korver is a catch-and-shoot sniper but doesn’t bring a ton on the other side of the ball. Many assumed Korver would be a fine replacement for the injured J.R. Smith, but as much as Smith can check out from time to time on the court, he’s a more capable defender and can create his own shot – two aspects Korver is lacking.