A year later, without their superstar, the Cavaliers are on the verge of achieving a milestone in futility.
The lowly Cavaliers hope their past success against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers will be a motivating factor while trying to avoid an NBA single-season record 24th consecutive loss Saturday night.
Led by James, Cleveland (8-42) lost 37 regular-season games the past two seasons. With their former favorite son now in Miami, the Cavaliers already clinched a losing record with Friday’s 112-105 loss at Memphis.
The Cavaliers are also on the verge of equaling their own mark of futility with 24 straight losses set over the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.
“They say you can’t win ‘em all, but in the same light, you can’t lose ‘em all either,” said forward J.J. Hickson(notes), who matched his career high with 31 points and 15 rebounds Friday. “So, if we stay (focused), I think we can get a couple of wins before the season’s over.”
Though the Cavaliers have been saddled by injuries to starters Mo Williams(notes) (strained hip), Anderson Varejao(notes) (season-ending torn ankle tendon) and Daniel Gibson(notes) (quad contusion, personal reasons), they have not lacked for effort while relying on a makeshift lineup during most of this turbulent stretch.
“We’re not playing to lose,” Hickson said. “We’re not going out there trying to lose.”
Cleveland came close to ending their skid after leading by seven at halftime at Memphis. However, the Grizzlies scored 13 straight points to open the fourth quarter to take control.
“Watching the guys in the locker room, the one thing I can say is guys are very disappointed in the way we finished the game,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. “And maybe that’s a good thing.”
Scott hopes his club can use Friday’s near-miss as motivation while the Cavaliers try for an eighth straight home victory and seventh in a row overall against Portland.
Granted, James was the backbone of that success, but Cleveland could use anything positive to lean on while trying to snap its extended funk. Antawn Jamison(notes), who had 19 points Friday, has averaged 23.0 points his last three games versus Portland.
While the Trail Blazers (26-24) don’t find themselves in as dire a state as the Cavaliers, they have lost four of five to slip to ninth in the Western Conference.
Portland looks to avoid being swept on a three-game trip after falling 100-87 at Indiana on Friday, following Wednesday’s loss at Denver. The Trail Blazers shot 36.4 percent against the Pacers, including 5 of 20 from 3-point range, and were outrebounded 58-39.
The Blazers have shot 40.8 percent and averaged 87.0 points over the last five games.
“We are not playing with that sense of urgency,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “Teams have been the aggressor.”
With injured star Brandon Roy(notes) (knee) out since Dec. 17, the Blazers have turned to veteran LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) to carry much of the load. Aldridge is averaging a career-high 21.2 points, but has failed to score at least 20 in four of five.
Portland has been held to 86.3 points per game during its seven-game skid at Cleveland.