One would have thought that a chance to match the franchise's longest regular-season winning streak of 13 would have been enough motivation for the Cavaliers.
But Wednesday's game against the Sacramento Kings at Quicken Loans Arena was so lacking in rhythm that LeBron James tried three different shoes. In the first quarter he changed from black to gray, then in the third quarter he put on a wine-colored pair.
The Cavs did just enough to get by, beating the Kings, 101-95. They extended the league's longest active streak and equaled the string of victories posted by Mike Brown-coached teams from March 7-31, 2009, and from Jan. 16-Feb. 11, 2010.
Despite going scoreless in the first quarter, James just missed his second consecutive triple-double against the Kings with 32 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He committed seven of the Cavs' 15 turnovers.
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Kevin Love recorded his team-leading 17th double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The Cavs' bench also ignited a final quarter flurry, with Kyle Korver scoring 10 of his 15 points. James was the only Cavs starter to score in the fourth quarter.
Defensively the Cavs (18-7) saved their best for last. Love bodied Zach Randolph into a miss and grabbed the rebound with 1:58 to go. After James scored on a hook shot for a 97-95 lead with 1:35 remaining, the Cavs forced a 24-second violation on the Kings' next possession.
After a miss by J.R. Smith and a rebound by Jeff Green, James hit a step-back, fallaway 3-pointer to put the Cavs up 100-95 with 16 seconds left and pounded his chest as the Kings called timeout. Korver hit a free throw for the final margin.
The Kings (7-17) had won three of their previous six games after opening the season 1-8.
Trailing 78-73, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue opened the fourth quarter with the Bench Mob and Korver hit three quick treys in a 9-1 run that gave the Cavs an 82-79 lead and forced a Kings timeout with 10:35 remaining.
James didn't score until he hit the second of two free throws at the 9:37 mark in the second period. His first field goal came on a driving layup with 7:41 to go in that quarter and he finished the quarter with 12 points.
In the final three minutes of the third quarter, James came alive, scoring eight points on two 3s and a slam off a Dwyane Wade assist.
In the first half, James wasn't the only disinterested player. The Cavs scored just six points in the first 51/2 minutes as Love fired up an air ball, Jose Calderon a clunker and Jae Crowder missed a layup. Love scored eight points on 4 of 8 field goals in the quarter, while the rest of the Cavs made 4 of 13.
The Cavs led 36-34 after a driving layup by Green with 6:30 left in the second quarter, but the Kings outscored the Cavs 23-12 the rest of the way. Buddy Hield and Randolph had seven points each during the Kings' surge, while Frank Mason contributed five. James scored nine consecutive points, and Love added an and-one during that span.
The Cavs were no more engaged to start the second half. They opened with two turnovers and a technical foul on J.R. Smith in the first 40 seconds.
But the Cavs still found a way to keep the winning streak.
James said this Cavs team is much different than the teams Brown coached to 66 and 61 victories in 2008-09 and 2009-10, with which they share the record.
"We're much more balanced. We had our system in place for a while because Mike Brown was there for quite a while and we knew exactly what we wanted to do every night defensively, offensively," James said. "Starting to get to that point now. But we're much more talented today. We got multiple Hall of Famers on our team right now and multiple All-Stars that we didn't have back on that '09 team.
"But the one thing I can say that both teams had, they just had the composure of wanting to defend and to execute offensively. And every night we went out on the floor we thought we could win. Every single night, no matter who we were going against, we felt like we could win and that's definitely a plus."