James and the Cavs look to end their slump when they face the Golden State Warriors in the fifth game of a six-game road trip against Western Conference opponents.
Cleveland’s slide continued Wednesday night when James missed a free throw with 0.6 seconds to play, giving the Denver Nuggets a 90-89 victory over the Cavs.
“Everything that happened … I blame myself,” said James, who finished with a team-high 24 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. “When we win, I get the credit. When we lose, I take the blame. It’s just another loss.”
James had pulled down his own missed free throw—which he purposely misfired with 0.6 seconds left—and drew another foul, giving him the chance to tie it. James hit his first free throw, and after he missed the second, Alan Henderson’s tip-in attempt bounced out at the buzzer.
Three of the five losses have come by two points or less. Kobe Bryant hit the winning shot with 8.6 remaining as the Lakers topped the Cavs 99-88 last Thursday, and James was held to seven second-half points in an 89-87 defeat to the Blazers.
The Cavs have been hurt by the absences of starting point guard Larry Hughes and forward Drew Gooden. Hughes, averaging 16.2 points and 3.9 assists, is expected to miss eight weeks with a broken finger. Gooden, who has six double-doubles in his last 10 games, hasn’t played since leaving Saturday’s game against Phoenix with a right thigh strain.
“This is a tough time for us,” said James, who had 46 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against the Suns.
Golden State, though, will also be without a key player Friday. Point guard Baron Davis, who leads the Warriors with 9.3 assists per game, was suspended for one game without pay by the NBA on Thursday for hitting Seattle’s Luke Ridnour in the chest. Davis intentionally made a hard swipe at Ridnour after the whistle late in the first half of the Warriors’ 109-93 win Monday.
Golden State ended a five-game losing streak of its own with the victory over the Sonics. Jason Richardson scored 26 points and Davis added 25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, two nights after posting his fifth career triple-double.
“It gives us the kind of attitude and swagger that we can get back,” Richardson said of ending the slide that had dropped the Warriors under .500. “It’s uplifting.”
The Warriors have had difficult maintaining any level of consistency over the past month. Golden State lost five in a row from Dec. 18-Dec. 26, then won three straight from Dec. 28-31 before dropping its next five games.
Cleveland won both games against the Warriors last season, completing the sweep with a 105-87 rout at Oakland on Jan. 22.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 18): Cavaliers - 3rd place, 11 GB, Central Division. Warriors - 4th place, 6 1/2 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Cavaliers - James, 30.9 ppg and 6.1 apg; Gooden, 6.7 rpg. Warriors - Richardson, 22.7 ppg; Murphy, 8.6 rpg; Davis, 9.3 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Cavaliers, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 22; Cavaliers, 105-87. At Oakland, Calif., James finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds while Gooden and Ilgauskas each scored 18 to lift Cleveland.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cavaliers - 6-11 on the road; Warriors - 10-10 at home.