With James questionable due to back spasms, the Cavaliers (39-25) will try to extend their season-high winning streak to seven games when they travel to meet the Memphis Grizzlies—owners of the league’s worst record—on Wednesday night.
James, who is averaging 27.4 points per game, is scheduled to travel with the team and will be re-evaluated before Wednesday’s game, one day after missing a 124-100 win over Sacramento.
Cavaliers team spokesman Ted Carper said before the game that the decision to scratch James was made by coach Mike Brown.
“He wanted to play,” Brown said after the win. “He was going to play with the spasms, but I told him I thought it would be best for the team and best for the long run to sit this one out.”
James felt something in his back Monday night and then again after the team’s shootaround Tuesday. After the game, he was asked how he felt.
“I’m movin’, aren’t I?” he said.
Cleveland showed no signs of missing the All-Star. Sasha Pavlovic scored a career-high 25 points and Larry Hughes added 25 as the Cavaliers improved to 3-0 this season when James misses a game. Ira Newble started in James’ place and scored 12 points, surpassing the seven he’d scored all season.
Even without their leading scorer, the Cavaliers tied a season-high for points and shot 54.1 percent from the field. With the score tied at 51 entering the third quarter, the Cavs broke open the game with a 24-5 run.
Cleveland’s margin of victory this season without James is 19.7 points.
“We always get scared a little bit when he’s out, so we try to step up and get a win,” Pavlovic said.
James is averaging 24.6 points in seven games against Memphis, and having him healthy is particularly important as the Cavaliers try continue their push for the Eastern Conference crown. Cleveland is in second place in the East, just two games behind Detroit
Following its game with Memphis, six of Cleveland’s next 10 opponents have records below .500.
Memphis (16-49) lost to New Jersey 113-102 on Monday night in the opener of a five-game homestand. The defeat was the Grizzlies’ seventh in eight games.
Despite having six players in double figures, led by 19 from Pau Gasol, the Grizzlies were unable to string together back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Memphis snapped a six-game slide with a 115-107 win over Charlotte on Saturday.
“I don’t have any explanation for us not playing with a sense of urgency,” Grizzlies coach Tony Barone said. “We didn’t play with urgency all night or from the beginning of the game.”
Gasol missed the Grizzlies’ 97-94 loss in Cleveland on Nov. 21 as he was recovering from a broken foot suffered while representing Spain during last summer’s World Championships. He’s averaging 24.5 points in eight games against the Cavaliers.
Memphis has lost four in a row at FedEx Forum, but has won five of its last six home meetings against Cleveland.