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Cleveland Cavaliers shake up starting lineup in hopes of ending skating loss, sources say

Cleveland Cavaliers shake up starting lineup in hopes of ending skating loss, sources say

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cavaliers are making a change to their starting lineup in hopes of rediscovering a lost defensive identity and ending a five-game losing streak.

Sources tell cleveland.com that Caris LeVert, who won the team’s starting small forward job in training camp and has started each of the 14 games at either the No. 2 or No. 3, will be benched Friday at at night, and for the foreseeable future.

Sources say LeVert will be replaced by tough, defensive forward Lamar Stevens.

The new starting lineup will be Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Stevens, a quintet that hasn’t played together at all this season. The Cavs want to see how this lineup plays out for a while before making any other non-injury changes.

After logging just 23 total minutes through the team’s first 12 games, Stevens made a pair of recent starts in Allen’s absence. Stevens scored 15 points in Sunday’s loss against Minnesota, earning him another extended opportunity Wednesday night in Milwaukee, a game in which Stevens played a career-high 34 minutes while drawing the primary defensive assignment against perennial MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. .

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Even with Allen set to return to the lineup Friday night after missing back-to-back games, first with a sore ankle and then with an illness unrelated to COVID-19, Cavs coach , JB Bickerstaff, thought it was time to change things. He hinted at the possibility of a lineup change after Wednesday’s loss at Milwaukee before addressing the team’s struggles. “fat cat” mentality..

“Right now we’re not playing winning basketball. It’s that simple,” Bickerstaff said. “We have a formula that allows us and will allow us to be successful. Sticking to that is what we have to do. Right now, we’re not. It’s my responsibility to seek and find the guys who are more willing to play the way we want them to play, who are going to help us be successful. That’s what we’re going to do. Does that shake the way I feel about our team? No, I love all those guys equally. But it’s our responsibility to do the best for the team and find the guys who will play the way we need.”

Dean Wade’s forward would have been considered to replace LeVert in the starting five, sources say, but Wade will miss a fourth straight game with a sore right knee.

Since an 8-1 start that launched them to the top of the Eastern Conference, the Cavs have lost five straight games.

Over the past few days, players and coaches have pointed to the slide on defense as the main reason for such a quick turnaround.

Stylistically, the Cavs expect the energetic Stevens to help with that, challenging him to guard the opponent’s best perimeter players.

“Every year he finds his way on the floor,” Bickerstaff said recently of Stevens. “He deserves the opportunity. It’s early and we’re still trying to figure out lineups and rotations and that kind of thing, injuries play a part, but he’s a rotation player. I just have to figure out a way to get him in land”.

This trade also allows LeVert to return to his natural shooting guard spot. Playing on the second unit, away from two ball-dominant guards (Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell) will give LeVert more time on the ball while being used primarily as a shot creator and starter, the role he played while Garland was gone. lose the first few weeks into the regular season.

Since scoring in double figures in each of the first five games, a stretch that also featured a 41-point outburst on Oct. 28 against the Boston Celtics, LeVert hasn’t looked as comfortable. He is averaging 10.4 points in the last nine games. He made just one basket in Wednesday’s loss, the third time during this rocky stretch he’s scored in the single digits.

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