While LeBron James finds his loyalty to the Cavaliers being questioned, there isn’t much to criticize about the Cleveland star’s play on the court, as Milwaukee’s already witnessed this season.
James and the Cavaliers look to win their fifth straight Saturday when they visit the Bucks.
James is the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 27.6 points per game. He scored 23 in Cleveland’s 112-97 win over Golden State on Friday, going 9-of-13 from the floor while adding seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
Before the game, James responded to comments made by Charles Barkley on TNT’s NBA studio show and Dan Patrick’s radio show. Barkley criticized James for discussing his possible free agency in 2010.
“If I was LeBron James, I would shut the hell up,” Barkley said on Patrick’s show. “I’m a big LeBron fan. He’s a stud. You gotta give him his props. I’m getting so annoyed he’s talking about what he’s going to do in two years. I think it’s disrespectful to the game. I think it’s disrespectful to the Cavaliers.”
Asked about Barkley’s comments, James said: “He’s stupid. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
James then went out and had another relatively easy night, playing 31 minutes after matching a career-low 17 minutes in Cleveland’s 117-82 win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday. The Cavaliers (13-3) entered Friday having not trailed in their previous three games, but Golden State led most of the first half. After Cleveland gained control in the third quarter, James sat out the fourth quarter.
“We’re playing great basketball right now,” said James, who has averaged 26 minutes of playing time in the last three games. “We’re flowing the same way every game. We have the confidence flowing.”
This is the second meeting between Cleveland and Milwaukee. James scored a season-high 41 points as the Cavs won 99-93 on Nov. 11.
The Bucks, (7-11) though, might not be able to put up as much of a fight on Saturday as they continue to play short-handed. They have lost three straight and six of eight, including a 107-97 loss at Detroit on Friday. Richard Jefferson and Ramon Sessions each scored 21 points, but Milwaukee trailed by as many as 15 points and never really had a chance to prevail.
Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut both missed the game. Bogut has missed the last two after bruising his knee in Monday’s loss at Orlando, while Redd hasn’t played since Nov. 2 because of a sprained ankle.
Jefferson has averaged 23.7 points in the last three games, but the Bucks’ opponents are averaging 105.7 points during that stretch.
“For whatever reason, particularly in the last three games, we’ve lost a bit of our will to defend,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “I’m having a hard time finding lineups that are willing to go out there and try and defend.”
The Cavs have won six of the last nine meetings against Milwaukee. The Bucks have won the last two home games, though, and are 7-3 in James’ visits to the Bradley Center.