LeBron's free-falling team making changes to lineup

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The Cavaliers’ loss to the Spurs on Tuesday was notable for a couple of reasons.

One was that LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points.

The other certainly wasn’t an accomplishment, but rather seemed to be an insult. Midway through the third quarter, Kevin Love took a shot to the face and fell down to the court. Jae Crowder then glanced at him — and instead of helping him up, simply looked at him and then stepped over his legs just as Allen Iverson did to Tyronn Lue in 2001.

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It was a bad look for the Cavs, who have been mired in dysfunction all season, and a worse look for Crowder.

Perhaps with the stepover bringing back bad memories, Lue decided to make some changes within his starting lineup, and Crowder has been circled as the fall guy.

“Jae has been playing good the last few games and it has nothing to do with Jae,” said Lue. “He’s been great. He’s all about the right things. He’s all about the team. You hate to make these changes. Not saying it’s permanent, but he’s about the team. Went and talked to him this morning and he said, ‘Whatever is best for the team. I’m all in.'”

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Thompson will return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench for all but five games. Crowder, who has started 43 of 46 games, will come off the bench for the first time since Nov. 1.

With Thompson at center, Kevin Love will now slide down to power forward. Love had started at center for all 45 of the games he played in, except for the five in which Thompson was a starter.

The rest of the starting lineup will consist of Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith and LeBron James. This five-man group has not started a game all season and has played all of eight minutes and six seconds together this season.

Lue is hoping that Thompson’s insertion into the starting lineup will help the Cavs defensively. The offensive end hasn’t been a problem as the team ranks fifth in points per game. But Cleveland is fifth-worst in points allowed, and things have gotten especially rough of late.

Since the calendar flipped to 2018, the Cavs have posted a 3-7 record thanks mostly to their shortcomings on defense. They have given up an average of 118 points per game over those 10 games.

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Over a full season, that 118 points allowed would rank as the most in the past 26 years. Not since the 1990-91 season has a team allowed that many points over a full year.

James doesn’t think the change in the starting lineup is that big of a deal because Thompson has started hundreds of games for the Cavs, including on their way to an NBA championship.

“We’re bringing in a guy who started for our team numerous games, so I don’t think that’s a big deal,” he said.

These might not be the only changes that Lue makes to the starting lineup as the backcourt could undergo a shakeup at some point. Both Thomas and Smith are shooting below 40 percent from the field and have been sieves defensively.

“We thought about it,” Lue said in regards to benching Thomas or Smith. “Right now is not the time.”

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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