Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron continues triple-double tour

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LeBron continues triple-double tour

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 40 points as part of his third triple-double in four games and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 124-117 on Monday night as coach Tyronn Lue began his leave of absence to address health issues.

Lue said Monday in a statement he been dealing with chest pains and loss of sleep, and that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is. Associate head coach Larry Drew will run the team in Lue's absence.

James scored 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 16th triple-double this season and 71st of his career.

The four-time MVP took over in the third beginning with back-to-back 3-pointers. After not getting a foul called on a third attempt, he finished Cleveland's next possession with a massive dunk. He was fouled attempting another dunk and made both free throws the following time down.

Milwaukee cut a 17-point lead to 117-109, but James drove the length of the floor for a dunk with just over a minute left.

Cavaliers All-Star forward Kevin Love returned after missing six weeks because of a broken left hand and scored 18 points in 25 minutes. He sparked a 10-0 run in the second quarter with two 3-pointers

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 37 points and went 11 for 11 at the foul line for Milwaukee, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference. Khris Middleton had 30 points, making 11 of 16 from the field (see full recap).

Heat set franchise scoring mark in 2OT win
MIAMI -- James Johnson scored a career-high 31 points, Kelly Olynyk added 30 off the bench and the Miami Heat set a franchise single-game scoring record by beating the Denver Nuggets 149-141 in double overtime Monday night.

Miami's total was also an NBA season-high and helped the Heat get back to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Houston and Oklahoma City each scored 148 in games earlier this season.

Wayne Ellington scored 29 points for the Heat. Nikola Jokic had 34 for Denver, while Wilson Chandler added 26 for the Nuggets.

"That was as playoffs as it comes right there," Olynyk said.

The NBA's stat system crashed late in the first overtime, and crews were scrambling to determine the final numbers long after the buzzer. All that ultimately mattered was the score -- one that moved the Heat closer to a playoff berth and left the Nuggets two games back in the Western Conference race.

Neither team was at full strength. For Miami, Dwyane Wade (left hamstring strain) missed his fourth consecutive game, and Hassan Whiteside (left hip pain) sat out his fifth straight contest. Denver was without leading scorer Gary Harris, sidelined again by a strained right knee that could keep him out several more days (see full recap).

Oladipo, Pacers rally past Lakers
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo sparked a decisive run and finished with 20 points, Myles Turner had 21 points and the Indiana Pacers recovered from a poor start for a 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

The victory snapped Indiana's two-game losing streak.

Los Angeles was led by Kyle Kuzma with 27 points and Brook Lopez with 23, but the Lakers still lost their third straight.

Oladipo and Darren Collison got Indiana going with back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third quarter for a 77-70 lead. After a layup from Julius Randle, Collison made a 20-footer and Lance Stephenson hit a 10-footer. When the 14-4 flurry ended, Indiana led 85-74 with 3:04 left in the third.

The Lakers never seriously challenged after that.

It was a stark contrast to the Lakers' fast start. Efficient shooting helped them take a 28-19 lead in the first quarter, but when the shooters cooled off, the Pacers charged back and used a 15-6 second-quarter run to make it 51-50 late in the period.

The Pacers still trailed 59-57 at the half -- before Oladipo helped flip things in the second half (see full recap).

Looking at Sixers' top competition for LeBron

Photo: NBCSP

Looking at Sixers' top competition for LeBron

With The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reporting that he keeps hearing the Sixers, Rockets, Lakers and Cavs are the four teams on LeBron James' free-agency wishlist, let's take a look at feasibility and fit of the Sixers' top three competitors for The King's services:

Houston is the favorite in Vegas to land LeBron. The Rockets already have two superstars and an emerging, high-level rim protector in Clint Capela. Houston is a big market and the Rockets may even have a chance to beat the Warriors this season, without LeBron.

From a titles standpoint, the Rockets make the most sense for The King. It's a ready-made championship situation, but it wouldn't be simple building that roster.

To make room for LeBron, the Rockets would have to find a taker for Ryan Anderson's $20 million annual salary. That won't be easy and will almost certainly require Houston to part with a first-round pick or two.

The Rockets will also likely have to find takers for the contracts of P.J. Tucker and Nene, two valuable role players but obviously pieces you're OK with losing for the likes of an all-time great.

From a salary cap perspective, the Rockets could put together a roster including LeBron, James Harden, Chris Paul, Capela and maybe Eric Gordon, but the rest of the team would have to be filled out with minimum types of contracts.

LeBron has two homes in Los Angeles, and the Lakers now have cap space for two huge contracts thanks to the Jordan Clarkson-Larry Nance-Isaiah Thomas trade with Cleveland.

Those are the pros for L.A.

The cons are how it would all fit.

The Lakers' best-case offseason scenario would be signing both LeBron and Paul George. Let's imagine for a second that happens. You'd have a Lakers team featuring LeBron, George, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball. With zero rim protection.

Obviously, in this scenario, a trade would be necessary — involving Ball, Kuzma or maybe both. The Lakers would need more shooting and inside defense, and Ball's best quality (distribution) would be a lot less necessary with LeBron.

Would a team like that win a championship in a loaded West? Probably not. LeBron has to realize that Houston aside, staying in the Eastern Conference gives him the best chance at advancing deep into the playoffs every season. 

If the Cavs have an inkling LeBron is staying, they'd trade that coveted Nets lottery pick for an established star. 

But even with another established star — whoever that may be — this is a fading Cavs team. Kevin Love's trade value isn't nearly as high as it once was. 

The Cavs also have so much money committed to so many guys that they lack roster flexibility. If LeBron, Love and the cast of role players return, along with whoever they trade the Nets pick for, that's still probably a 50-plus win team in the East but not a surefire favorite with the Celtics, Raptors and Sixers all getting better.

These four teams sure look like the only four legit contenders for LeBron, but anyone who claims to know what he will decide at this point is full of it.

The good, the bad and Cavaliers as Sixers trek toward postseason

The good, the bad and Cavaliers as Sixers trek toward postseason

The Sixers bounced back nicely Tuesday in Charlotte. The Hornets are far from a great team. However, after the turnover-fest, debacle in Milwaukee on Sunday, it was a nice page-turner. So, as we take a little inventory as to where this team stands with just 19 games to play, there's a tug of war between the wonderment of how far this team has come and the reality of what lies ahead.

If the playoffs started today, the Sixers would be the sixth seed and take on the third-seeded Cavaliers in the first round. A lot could change between now and the close of the season.

The Sixers are just two games out of the third spot occupied by Cleveland, but for our purposes, let’s go with the premise they finish sixth.

Here are the pros and the cons as they head into the postseason.

The good
Joel Embiid is a force on both ends. He flat-out takes games over with his ability to enforce his will on the block and his touch from the outside. He also alters not just opponents shots but thought processes when it comes to going to the rack.

Ben Simmons is poised beyond his years and even without the benefit of a jump shot, can affect games in so many ways. Scoring, passing, rebounding. Sixers shooters get remarkably clean looks when he kicks it out on a drive.

They now have a cadre of shooters with the additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to go along with JJ Redick. Those add also bring big-time pop to the bench. And you know night in and night out, Dario Saric will give you everything he has.      

The Sixers are 20-10 at home, first in rebounds per game and third in assists. They’re 10th in scoring and 14th in points given up per game. They also have seven players scoring in double figures.

The not-so-good
Turnovers. Did I mention turnovers? The Sixers give the ball away like it’s candy on Halloween night — 17.2 per game, which leads the NBA. Yes, they're young, but that has to be at least curbed. They are 15-18 on the road, tied for the lowest winning percentage of any team in the top eight in the East.

The Cavs have beaten the Sixers twice in three meetings this season. But the Sixers knocked off LeBron James' squad last week in the only meeting since Cleveland overhauled its roster.

The Cavaliers are a tough team to handicap. On one hand, they have James, who is all-world, capable of carrying bad teams by himself to great heights, and perennially gets his teams to the finals. And they'll be getting Kevin Love back soon. But they’ve been a mess all season, hence the trades. They’ve played uninspired, disinterested, defenseless basketball for long stretches. And Kyrie Irving is not walking through that door anytime soon.

Then there’s the specter of James bolting once again after the season ends. All that said, it’s not impossible to think the Sixers could upset them. 

Regardless of how the playoffs shake out, it’s remarkable how far the Sixers have come in a year’s time.