NBA Basketball

James leads depleted Cavs into Chicago

CHICAGO -- There was a time not that long ago when LeBron James had plenty of star power surrounding him.

But as injuries have continued to mount this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James' own stardom and playmaking abilities haven't been enough to keep Cleveland rolling as much as it is accustomed as the playoffs approach.

The Cavaliers will remain short-handed when they face the Bulls on Saturday at the United Center. While James is at full strength and coming off a 35-point, 14-rebound effort in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, the Cavaliers (39-29) remain in waiting mode for much of James' supporting cast to return.

With mainstays Kevin Love (broken hand) and Tristan Thompson (sprained right ankle) not expected to return until at least next week, Cleveland may also be without starting center Larry Nance Jr., who missed Thursday's game with a nagging hamstring injury and is considered day-to-day.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters that Nance wanted to play against Portland, but that the training staff deemed it necessary for Nance to continue undergoing treatment and "see where we're at after (Thursday)," Lue said, according to Cleveland.com.

The Cavaliers will wrap up a six-game road trip on Saturday against the Bulls and are just 8-7 since Feb. 8, when Cleveland made a series of trades. And while James has averaged a triple-double in those 15 games, not having a full contingent around him has made winning more difficult than normal.

Still, James won't change his approach how he goes about his job.

"I think at the end of the day, my approach has always stayed the same: Just continue to attack, attack defenses and if I attract two to the ball, give my guys opportunities. Rebound the ball. Defend," James said, according to Cleveland.com. "There's a lot of energy that's used with that, but that's fine as well. But it's been a long time since I haven't played with another All-Star on my team.

"So, having (Love) out has been very challenging for all of us. (Love) has a big usage rate on our team. He'll get the ball when things get tight, chaotic, we can throw it to him in the low post and get some things going."

The Bulls (24-44) continue to experiment with various combinations and finished a 111-110 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies with Antonio Blakeney, Cameron Payne, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh and Cristiano Felicio on the floor.

Blakeney's two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining allowed the Bulls to pull out the victory in which Chicago's reserves tallied 63 points.

Zach LaVine scored 20 points but didn't play in the fourth quarter, and the Bulls played the majority of the night without starting guard Kris Dunn, who sprained his right big toe. Dunn, along with rookie Lauri Markkanen (back spasms), won't play Saturday against Cleveland while LaVine is also questionable.

As they have since the All-Star break, the short-handed and rebuilding Bulls will give young players big opportunities as they continue to focus on the future.

"We wanted to put those guys in a pressure situation," coach Fred Hoiberg said of the grouping that finished the game Thursday night, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I thought they all played with a lot of composure. ... For the first time in that position, I thought those guys handled it very well."

Updated March 16, 2018

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