Sunday, March 4, 2018
The Cleveland Cavaliers are looking for love.
Make that Kevin Love. And the Cavaliers need him back from that broken left hand as soon as possible.
The feel-good surge right after the trade deadline — when the Cavs got younger and quicker by shedding deadwood like Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder and adding Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and George Hill — disappeared after the all-star break.
This was, apparently, going to be an overnight fix.
Yes, Cleveland is younger and quicker. But the chemistry is not there yet and the Cavaliers are still struggling on defense, as evidenced by giving up 110, 110, 123, 108 and 126 points in five of their last six games.
That lack of defensive prowess is made even more glaring by the fact that none of the new guys and none of the holdovers not named LeBron James have provided consistent scoring.
James pretty much gives the Cavaliers 25-30 points, 10-12 rebounds and 10-12 assists every night. But right now his supporting cast is hit-and-miss, but lately they’re missing more than they’re hitting.
Unless, of course, you count J.R. Smith allegedly hitting assistant coach Damon Jones with a bowl of soup.
Jones is about all Smith has hit from a distance lately. The streaky guard is averaging just 8.3 points and shooting 39 percent.
That incident — which resulted in Smith being suspended for a game — shows that not all is good in Cleveland. Smith was briefly supplanted by the now-departed Dywane Wade earlier this season and Hood started in his place in the game in which Smith was suspended.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Smith would return to the starting lineup after the suspension and he did start Saturday night in a 126-117 loss to the Nuggets, scoring all 19 of his points in the second half.
James had another triple-double with 25 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough.
Love might be just the tonic for the Cavaliers, who lack a Robin to James’ Batman right now.
Love was averaging 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds when he got hurt. He is a consistent threat from the perimeter, where he is shooting 40.4 percent (105 of 260) from 3-point range. That’s critical when Smith’s shot isn’t falling with any regularity.
Throw in the fact that and the Cavaliers’ younger players — Clarkson, Hood and Nance — are also struggling with consistency and in defining their roles in playing alongside James and it’s easier to understand why Cleveland is back to struggling after the emotional boost the deadline moves brought.
The good news? The Cavs still have 19 games to figure everything out before the playoffs.
And Love indicated Friday that he’s feeling better and might be able to return sooner than expected.
That might be the best news of all.
Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.