The Cleveland Cavaliers have been able to weather injuries, mostly because LeBron James is a triple-double threat in every game. That type of all-around play is what the slumping New Jersey Nets miss most since trading Jason Kidd.
After another sparkling performance from James, the Cavaliers look to end their struggles in New Jersey when they face the punchless Nets on Wednesday night.
James tallied his seventh triple-double of the season Monday night, finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in Cleveland’s 88-80 win over Portland.
It was the third-triple double in 12 games for James, who has 17 for his career.
“It’s scary, it really is,” Cavaliers swingman Wally Szczerbiak said. “It’s pretty special being on this team and seeing him day in and day out. Being able to watch it, the fans are probably watching the best basketball player in the world. It’s arguable between him and Kobe (Bryant), and I’m going to argue for him every day.”
James had 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds against the Nets (26-38) on Dec. 14, but the Cavaliers (37-27) lost 105-97. It was Cleveland’s 10th loss in its last 11 games in New Jersey.
The Cavaliers have lost their two games against the Nets this season, the first of which was played in Cleveland. But James missed that contest due to a sprained left index finger, and New Jersey has been sinking in the Eastern Conference standings since trading Kidd to Dallas.
The Nets were in playoff position before dealing Kidd, but have lost nine of 12 since and are now one-half game behind Atlanta for the eighth postseason spot. New Jersey has lost six straight, averaging 84.3 points while shooting 39.5 percent from the field in that span.
The Nets clearly miss Kidd’s dynamic play at point guard. The veteran leads the NBA with 12 triple-doubles, and has 99 for his career.
After a 91-73 loss Monday night to Houston - which has won 19 straight - New Jersey will host a Cleveland team that has played well in recent weeks. The Cavaliers have won eight of their last 11 and are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.
Cleveland has played five straight games without Zydrunas Ilgauskas (back), but has won four of those contests. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown doesn’t know when his 7-foot-3 center will return.
New Jersey has remained relatively healthy, but a lack of chemistry has been hurting the club. The Nets have lost all five games point guard Devin Harris has started.
Harris, whom the Nets acquired from the Mavericks as part of the Kidd trade, had 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting versus the Rockets. With Harris orchestrating the offense, New Jersey shot 30.4 percent (24-of-79) from the field. The Nets’ 28 first-half points and 47 points after three quarters were season lows.
“It’s always frustrating when we try to get to the hole and don’t make our shots,” New Jersey swingman Vince Carter said.
Carter, averaging 20.3 points per game, has been held to 13 or less in three of his last four contests.