Cavs remain mired in slump even after James' tirade

LOS ANGELES • The Cleveland Cavaliers' recent struggles continued with a 112-116 overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Not even a second straight triple-double from superstar LeBron James could lift the National Basketball Association (NBA) champions, who fell to their third straight loss and sixth of their last eight games.

"Just try to get better," was James' prescription. "We've got to get better, that's all.

"We had our opportunities. It doesn't matter who we go up against, we know we're going to get everybody's best, so we've just got to be better."

The comments were tame compared to the tirade he delivered after Monday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Then, he called the squad "top-heavy", hinting that he, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love did not have a strong enough supporting cast, and questioned the management's commitment to retaining the title.

Cavs general manager David Griffin met James about the outburst, saying it "certainly wasn't appropriate from a team-mate perspective".

"The comment about the organisation being complacent I think is really misguided," he added.

"Organisationally there is absolutely no lack of clarity on what our goal is. We are here to win championships and there is no other outcome that is acceptable. There never has been."

However, James will not be soothed by Wednesday's on-court performance.

He scored 24 points with 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Love had 21 points and 16 rebounds , while Irving added 20 points. However, the Cavaliers made just 17 of 34 free-throw attempts and turned the ball over 18 times.

DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 28 points with 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals for the Kings. Aaron Afflalo scored 14 and Darren Collison added 23.

In a game in which each team led by as many as 10 points, Kyle Korver's three-pointer with 7min 43sec remaining in regulation had put Cleveland up 97-87. But Sacramento scored 11 straight points.

Cleveland still had a chance to win it in regulation, but James' attempt to inbounds the ball to Love was thwarted by Cousins - who grabbed Love's jersey but was not whistled for a foul.

In overtime, after Afflalo's three-pointer with 30.8 seconds left put Sacramento up 115-112, James missed a three-pointer with 10 seconds remaining and Cousins capped the scoring with a free throw with five seconds to play.

"It seems like when you're losing, you're not playing well, every ball bounces the other team's way, every mistake you pay for it," coach Tyronn Lue said. "That's what's happening right now, so we've got to dig ourselves out of it."

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Cavs remain mired in slump even after James' tirade'. Print Edition | Subscribe