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Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Could Toronto catch Cleveland for East’s top seed?

LeBron James

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, looks on from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Washington. James did not play. The Wizards won 113-99. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)


Here’s what you missed on a Sunday around the NBA while thinking, “I should see Spotlight.”

1) Cavaliers rest LeBron James, look sloppy in loss to Wizards. It would be easy to write off Sunday’s Cleveland loss to Washington saying “the Cavs were resting LeBron.” Except the Cavaliers have dropped three of their last four and continue to look lost on defense and still searching for an identity on offense. The Cavaliers still started Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but those two combined for 13-of-31 shooting Sunday. There was more Love in isolation than anyone needs to see. More importantly, the Cavaliers played sloppy defense again (Washington had an offensive rating of 111.9 points per 100 possessions, meaning against the Cavs defense the Wizards looked like the Warriors). Coach Tyronn Lue was so frustrated he hockey line changed out all the starters mid-way through the third and tried to turn the game over to the Cavs’ bench.

After the game, J.R. Smith was the voice of reason, saying the Cavaliers can’t keep playing like this. Not just if they want to beat Golden State or whoever comes out of the West, but if they want to beat Toronto and the other teams in the East (the Raptors beat the Cavs a couple of nights ago.

2) Toronto misses chance to close gap on Cavaliers to one with loss to Pistons. Cleveland is opening the door with this mini-slump for the Toronto Raptors, something Toronto took advantage of earlier in the week to move within two games of the top seed. But Toronto missed an opportunity on Sunday — the Cavaliers lost again, but so did Toronto, falling to Detroit in ugly fashion 114-101. Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey decided to rest Kyle Lowry — which is a smart thing to do — but it seems the rest of the team took a mental vacation as well. Jonas Valanciunas got thoroughly worked by Andre Drummond, particularly on the glass. Corey Joseph didn’t impress with the start. In the second half, DeMar DeRozan was making bad shot choices. It was just a poor game and a blown opportunity to make up ground by Toronto.

3)Damian Lillard goes off for more than 30 again. Lillard’s run of hot play continued as he scored 20 points in the first quarter on his way to 33 for the game as the Trail Blazers beat the beat the Pacers in Indiana 111-102. Lillard led Portland to a 9-2 record in February.

4) Joe Johnson jumps right into Miami’s starting lineup. Joe Johnson went to Miami to get minutes and he was given them right off the bat — he was in the starting lineup Sunday against the Knicks and played 30 minutes, knocking down the first three he took on his way to scoring a dozen points on 10 shots in Miami’s 98-81 win. Johnson (and the entire Heat team) was a bit up-and-down on the day, Johnson was trying to find a comfort level with his new teammates, and to feel his way through the offense. Fortunately for the Heat, they were playing the Knicks so their mistakes were not exploited, at least not consistently. Dwyane Wade dropped 26 points, while Hassan Whiteside finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Miami is the four seed in the East and with Johnson is looking to keep home court advantage in the first round. Johnson is an upgrade for them that should help with that goal.

5) Dallas’ Dwight Powell had the dunk of the day. This is nasty.