Spurs reeling entering matchup at Cavs (Feb 24, 2018)
CLEVELAND -- This time it's the San Antonio Spurs who are dealing with a great deal of controversy.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, for a change, are all smiles.
The two teams that will meet Sunday in Cleveland are headed in different directions now and were at the opposite ends of this roller coaster when they last played Jan. 23 in San Antonio.
The Spurs are riding a four-game losing streak and are playing under the assumption that star forward Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps tendinopathy) would not play again this season, even though he's been medically cleared.
The Cavs, who ripped up their team at the Feb. 8 trade deadline, have won five of the last six games.
"I think we should have that attitude, that he's not going to come back," Spurs guard Tony Parker said of Leonard, according to the San Antonio Express. "At the same time, we're going to be hopeful and positive. But you have to be realistic. We have 23 games left. How long can we wait?"
Leonard has played just nine games this season and a deep chill has set inside the organization over the treatment of his injury and his self-imposed unavailability.
It wasn't long ago that this shoe was on the Cavs' foot.
On Jan. 22, hours before Cleveland boarded a plane for San Antonio, a contentious, personal team meeting that singed nearly every member of the organization erupted over Kevin Love's unexplained leaving of a 24-point loss to Oklahoma City and his absence the next day from practice.
The Cavs lost 114-102 the next night to the Spurs (LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 points) for their sixth loss in seven games. Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas, two of the instigators of that Jan. 22 team meeting, were among the six players traded by general manager Koby Altman at the deadline to clear the air in the locker room and find players who fit better on the court.
In their four games with the Cavs, the team is ranked fourth in the league defensively and has twice kept opponents under 100 points. The foursome combined for 57 points in a blowout win at Memphis on Friday night.
"I think right now we're really paying attention to detail and we're executing the game plan," said LeBron James, who is averaging a triple-double for the month of February and posted his third triple-double in seven games Friday.
"And that's it. It's not two weeks ago, or one week ago, or three months. Right now we're just trying to pay attention to detail."
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili needed a chest X-ray after Friday's loss to Denver because of a second-quarter collision with Will Barton, according to the San Antonio Express, and Ginobili said he didn't know if he'd be able to play against the Cavs.
Danny Green sat out the loss to the Nuggets because he was ill.