It's been a bizarre month for LeBron James. He talked about wanting to play with his superstar friends then made fun of the media who hyper-analyze everything that he says. He had a strange moment where he unfollowed the Cavaliers on Twitter and then wouldn't talk about why he did it. The month started with those tweets inspired by his "beautiful mind" and the impromptu trip to Miami and the calls for Kendrick Perkins that started the month. James is only under such scrutiny because he's an international megastar, it's true, but that doesn't mean the smoke isn't real.
A Thursday road trip to Brooklyn was supposed to give James and the Cavaliers a chance to get away from that all. The Nets are, after all, the third-worst team in the NBA. But that didn't happen. Brooklyn led after the first quarter, expanded their lead by halftime, briefly saw the Cavaliers go ahead but bounced back in front for good with a late fourth-quarter push and winning, 104-95.
Worse, this happened with James playing one of his most efficient games of the year. He scored 30 points on 13-of-16 shooting, grabbing six rebounds and threw five assists, although he was scoreless in the fourth quarter. Because madness simply cannot escape him this March, James' frustrations were captured on Vine and quickly exploded.
James' return to Cleveland wasn't supposed to go like this. That's why he left Cleveland, because it was him and only him producing without any help. With a budding superstar in Kyrie Irving and a trade for Kevin Love, that's why he returned, too. It wasn't supposed to just be James anymore.
Yet here we are, with the Cavaliers and James stumbling through some weird March malaise, even while the Cavaliers are still the favorites to return to the Finals. They're still generally playing well, loss to the Nets aside, winning seven of their last 10. Maybe the biggest problem in Cleveland is resignation: Golden State and San Antonio are playing basketball at such a high level that everyone else in the league has essentially adopted a nihilistic "who cares, nothing matters" mantra.
Whatever the case, James' cryptic tweets and weird media interactions don't appear to be helping anything. On the court, it rarely feels like the James, Irving and Love click together, even in blowout wins. There have already been reports that James and Irving share no on-court chemistry, which passes the eye test. James' disappearing jump shot could factor in -- because of that, James' off-ball abilities are eroding and he needs the ball in his hands even more, meaning Irving touches it less.
Whatever the case, Cleveland's a strange place for James and everyone else. The Cavaliers are still the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They're still the team expected to match the Western Conference in the NBA Finals this June. They're still considered contenders, albeit by many fewer people than in the beginning of this year. But regardless, things are just weird. There simply may not be a good reason why.
2 more things from Thursday
The Bulls played themselves out of contention
Chicago could have stayed a half game back of the No. 8 seed with a win against the Knicks, but they just couldn't get it done. New York took the game, 106-94, despite a magnificent 30-point game from Derrick Rose. In a season that started with some people predicting the Bulls as the Eastern Conference favorite, it's looking more and more like they won't even make the playoffs in any capacity at all. Injuries have played a part, and Fred Hoiberg has clearly been overwhelmed in his first year as a head coach, but it's still a bit surprising that this is how Chicago's season may end.
The Trail Blazers vs. Clippers game saved itself at the end
For a neutral viewer, Portland and Los Angeles played a boring, nondescript game for about 45 minutes. There wasn't a lot of scoring and that mostly wasn't due to fantastic defense being played one way or the other -- it was just shots being missed and sloppy play. Chris Paul has torn up Damian Lillard in their previous matchups, but after a strong first half, he slowed down quite a bit as it looked like Portland would coast in for the win.
Then, out of nowhere, the game picked up in classic March Madness style. Jamal Crawford hit a three-pointer, which was answered by a Damian Lillard and-one. With the game tied, Lillard scored three more, this time with a huge stepback shot that splashed home, and this time it was Crawford answering him. But a Portland miss left slightly more than a second left on the clock -- too much time for J.J. Redick to do this:
Play of the night
4 fun things
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Staring Down LeBron: Jusuf Nurkic is huge and unafraid of James
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