Cavaliers don't defend well when LeBron James sits and Kevin Love is out

The defensive issues that the Cleveland Cavaliers had when LeBron James was off the court on Thursday are part of a longer-term problem tied to Kevin Love’s absence.

In their past two games, the Cavaliers have been outscored 64-19 in the 18 minutes in which LeBron James was off the court. The Cavaliers allowed the Pistons to shoot 14-of-20 from the field and the Heat to shoot 12-of-21.

In the 10 games in which Love has been out (during which the Cavaliers are 5-5), the Cavaliers are allowing opponents to shoot 53 percent when James is out of the game. Opponents have been held to 44 percent shooting when James is on the court. In those 10 games, the Cavaliers have outscored teams by 72 when James is on the floor and have been outscored by 91 when he isn’t.

When Love is healthy, the issue doesn’t exist. The Cavaliers’ opponents shot 46 percent with James on the court and 44 percent when he was on the bench (admittedly, chunks of this came in garbage time).

Among the other issues the Cavaliers have had, they haven’t done much to create offense with their defense. They’ve forced 66 turnovers in their past seven games (9.4 per game). They forced 13.5 per game in their first 56 games of the season. In the past two games when James was on the bench, their opponents have 16 assists and one turnover.