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The way LeBron James looks at it, the 110-103 loss to the visiting Washington Wizards on Thursday night was just a speedbump on what he expects to be a long journey for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I think we played well tonight, even though we lost,” James, who led the Cavaliers with 32 points, nine boards and eight dimes, told reporters afterward. “I hate losing, obviously, but I think the way we played, the way we shared the ball. Defensively, we were flying around as well and those guys, they just played better than us tonight.
“I like the start, I like the direction we’re headed.”
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) February 23, 2018
The fact James can speak so positively after the first loss since The New 4 was acquired Feb. 8 while making their home debuts should be encouraging to those who follow the Cavaliers (34-23), who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Here’s how The New 4 performed while making the debuts in a Cleveland uniform:
* Jordan Clarkson — Nine points, two rebounds two assists in 17 minutes. Plus-minus rating of minus-7.
* Rodney Hood — Eight points, two rebounds, two assists in 27 minutes. Plus-minus of minus-12.
* George Hill — Six points, three rebounds, three assists in 31 minutes. Plus-minus rating even.
* Larry Nance Jr. — Six points, 3 rebounds in 16 minutes. Pus-minus of minus-5.
That’s a combined 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The New 4 shot a combined 11-of-28 (39.2 percent) and finished with a collective plus-minus of minus-24.
In other words, it was just one of those nights. J.R. Smith backed James with 15 points, while Tristan Thompson had 12 points and nine boards.
The Cavaliers shot 50 percent from the floor (42-84), but were awful from beyond the 3-point arc, shooting just 8-of-35, 22.9 percent.
“Tonight, we still played to our game, just didn’t make a lot of shots,” James said.
Despite the loss, James is averaging 30.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 12.0 assists, while shooting 58.3 percent from the field, including 42.3 percent from 3 in his last five games.
However, he disputes the notion the work done by general manager Koby Altman in bringing The New 4 to the Cavaliers “rejuvenated” him.
“I don’t agree with that,” James said. “I just think that I refocused myself. Before the deadline happened, before the trades happened, I refocused myself to understand that I’m the leader of this team and I have to be mentally sharp and mentally strong throughout anything.
“Even before the trade, I planned on us having that team for the rest of the season. That was just my mindset and you saw that in the Minnesota game. We hadn’t made the trades then and in the Minnesota game, I just started to change my mindset. That’s just who I am.”
James won’t let one loss take away from what he and his teammates must accomplish over the course of the rest of the regular season (25 games) to prepare for the playoffs.
“Where I am now, I think we can be really good,” James said. “Like I said, we got 20-plus games left to try to figure it out. I think if we can do that, we continue what we’re on now, then we’ll be OK.”