Family feud in Cleveland
The on-court issues have been obvious for weeks. The Cavaliers' problems now extend to their locker room.
The champions are showing cracks and weakness.
Instead of celebrating a 135-130 double-overtime win over an Indiana team fighting for a play-off spot on Sunday, the Cavs were in damage control.
LeBron James apologised to Tristan Thompson, who was still fuming after a screaming match during a timeout with his world-famous teammate. Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith both made quick exits before speaking with reporters, and coach Tyronn Lue did everything he could to redirect pointed fingers at him.
"My fault," Lue said. "Blame it on me."
Unless the Cavs get it together in the next few weeks, Lue may have to accept greater culpability. Cleveland's postseason run could be shorter than anyone expected.
As James iced his ankles and knees after battling Paul George for 52 draining minutes before putting away the Pacers, Thompson was having trouble cooling off. The hard-working power forward briefly spoke with a team-media relations member and general manager David Griffin before addressing a small group of reporters, while James was speaking to the larger media group surrounding him in his corner locker.
Thompson's answers were curt, programmed.
family," he said. "Move forward."
Thompson was more animated during the second OT, when he and James screamed at each other after some defensive breakdowns allowed George to get free for a pair of three-pointers. While Cleveland's crowd stood and roared during a timeout, Thompson and James squared off and yelled at each other, awkwardly forcing Lue and their teammates to play peacemakers.
Truth be told, the Cavs' defence has been a major issue all season. They struggle to stop simple pick and rolls; they lack a rim-protecting big man (a role Andrew Bogut was going to fill before breaking his leg); they have been disjointed for months because of injuries; and they've lacked focus at both ends of the floor, relying on three-pointers to overcome defensive deficiencies.
James, who was guarding George, seemed to expect that Thompson was going to switch on screens. He didn't and George made the Cavs pay, scoring 19 consecutive points during one stretch of the overtime sessions.
Just last week, James insisted the team's recent slide a 7-10 record in March had not affected camaraderie.