BLOOMBERG - The Cleveland Cavaliers are no longer favoured to win the National Basketball Association title for the first time since LeBron James returned to the franchise almost six months ago.
The Cavaliers have gotten off to a 19-16 start this season, the 13th-best record in the 30-team NBA, and James has missed the past five games with strains of his left knee and lower back. Cleveland has dropped five of its past six games, including a 95-92 loss last night in Philadelphia, where the 76ers had been 0-14 this season.
The Cavaliers' odds of winning the NBA title are now 6-1 at online sports book Bovada.lv. They have slipped behind the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors, who are both 5-1, and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs at 11-2.
"We know we're not where we want to be and we have to play better," said Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love.
James had led the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals the past three seasons, winning two titles before losing to the Spurs last season. His July return to Cleveland, where he played his first seven NBA seasons, immediately made the Cavaliers the favorites to win their first championship.
It has been 50 years since Cleveland won its last major professional sports title with the Browns' 27-0 victory over Baltimore in the 1964 National Football League championship.
James might miss at least another week for the Cavaliers, who host the Houston Rockets (23-11) tomorrow before a five-game West Coast swing that includes games against the Warriors (27-5), Phoenix Suns (20-16) and Los Angeles Clippers (23-12).
They will host the Bulls (25-10) in their first home game following that road trip. "We're kind of hitting a murderer's row now," said Love. "We'll play some of the best teams in the league. We just need to keep fighting. We're down but we're not out."