With a pair of stars on the mend, a weekend off followed by a lighter stretch in the schedule might be the perfect medicine for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After surviving a physical and emotional opening week, the Cavs return to action Monday night at Philadelphia looking to keep the 76ers winless.
The Cavaliers (2-1) will continue to feel out their injury concerns during a stretch of six games against non-playoff teams from a year ago, rolling on with home matchups against New York and the 76ers later this week.
Article continues below ...
Cleveland opened with three games in four days – physical contests against Chicago and Memphis and an emotional one versus Miami. While point guard Kyrie Irving remains sidelined following offseason knee surgery with no timeline for his return, LeBron James and Kevin Love are each playing through injury concerns.
James said Friday he intends to play 82 games after missing a career-high 13 last season, but he is three weeks removed from his second anti-inflammatory injection in 10 months to treat an ongoing issue with his back.
An uneasy sight for Cavs fans has been the 30-year-old laying on his stomach near Cleveland’s bench in order to take the stress off his back.
He opened the season with 25 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to the Bulls on Tuesday but scored just 12 the next day in a blowout win over the Grizzlies. James hit 13 of 19 shots Friday for 29 points in a 102-92 victory over the Heat, whom he won two championships with before returning to Cleveland last season.
Not concerned with his own body, James has said he wants Love to get as involved as possible. Love had 24 points and 14 rebounds against Miami and shot 3 of 7 on 3-pointers.
"Kevin Love is our main focal point," James said. "We want to get Kev to know how great he is and how good he is for our team."
The physical games may have been bigger tests for Love’s surgically repaired left shoulder, which he injured in last season’s first-round playoff series against Boston.
"If it was going to go against two teams, it was going to be (the Bulls and Grizzlies)," said Love, who is averaging 19.7 points while knocking down 8 of 21 from 3-point range. "Definitely got hit, got pulled, got my arm locked a few times and I’m pretty sore, too, so it’s definitely been tested and I’m sure it will continue to be."
Cleveland is chasing its sixth win in seven meetings with Philadelphia, though the 76ers have won six of the last seven at Wells Fargo Center.
The 76ers (0-2) heard a familiar sound Friday when their home crowd booed them off the court following a 99-71 loss to Utah.
Philadelphia’s rebuilding era looks like it will last another season without Joel Embiid, leaving the rest of its inexperienced roster to take the lumps.
"Maybe it’s going to take a little bit of time," Nik Stauskas said. "Maybe we need to work on a few more things. But we’re relatively young and inexperienced at this point."
The 76ers have made shot just 36.1 percent while turning the ball over 43 times, including eight by rookie Jahlil Okafor in Wednesday’s 112-95 loss at Boston.
Okafor had a solid game otherwise, making 10 of 16 shots for 26 points, but he followed with 10 points against the Jazz.
He was one of five players to score in double digits. The problem was none of them finished with more than 12 while the team shot 30.2 percent and committed 19 turnovers.