Playing games on back-to-back nights might not be what a tired LeBron James would most like to do, but right now it’s what he has to do.
James appeared fatigued at times in Tuesday night’s 106-99 victory over the Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena. He had 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 44 minutes while favoring a sore knee and ankle.
The 21-year-old Cavaliers star is averaging more than 44 minutes since the start of February, and Cleveland coach Mike Brown is concerned about resting James enough before the playoffs.
“Do I wish I was doing a better job of that? Yes,” Brown said. “But he’s young. I need him to play. We need him to play.”
Flip Murray led the Cavs with 24 points in the first game since Jan. 20 that someone besides James led the team in scoring.
“When he has an off night like that, he has to have confidence that we can pick him up,” said Murray, who scored his most points since coming over in a Feb. 23 trade from Seattle. “That’s what we did.”
Damon Jones scored seven points in 14 minutes for the Cavs after an Arizona woman filed a complaint against him concerning a possible sexual offense.
“I am fully aware of the false accusations that have been made against me,” Jones said. “When the investigation is over I feel like I will be vindicated of all charges.”
This game opens a four-game road trip for the Cavaliers.
The loss was the seventh in eight games for the Raptors, who are now just four games ahead of last-place New York in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors hurt themselves by missing 7 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the breaks,” said Mike James, who led the Raptors with 31 points. “That’s how the ball bounces sometimes. Tonight was a tough one for us.”
Chris Bosh added 28 points and has 54 in two games against Cleveland this season, but missed four pivotal free throws in the final period.
The Cavaliers have defeated the Raptors three straight times, and have won five of the last six between the teams.