The Cleveland Cavaliers have looked lost without LeBron James.
Even with James sidelined again on Saturday, however, the Cavaliers could have a good shot to snap their longest losing streak in nearly two years as they visit the Charlotte Bobcats - the only Eastern Conference team with a longer active skid.
"It's definitely tough because we're struggling right now with me not being out there," James said. "I want to go out and help the guys."
Cleveland (9-11) had won four straight games with James in the lineup when the league's leading scorer sprained his left index finger while driving to the basket against Detroit on Nov. 28. He left the game, which Cleveland lost 109-74, and hasn't played since.
That defeat was the first of five in a row for the reigning conference champions - their longest losing streak since a six-game skid Jan. 10-20, 2006. They were averaging 102.1 points and shooting 45.0 percent from the field in James' full games, but have scored only 78.2 per game and shot 37.8 percent during the slide.
"It's tough. The coach is struggling because he's trying to find new combinations. When LeBron is on the floor, 80 percent of our offense runs through him, and we feed off of him and that's why we're good," Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said.
"But when you're missing that big part, all of a sudden you have to find the offense somewhere else. And sometimes I think we try to do too much individually."
James, averaging career highs of 30.7 points, 8.1 assists and 7.6 rebounds, is considered day-to-day but already has been ruled out of this game.
"Teams better get their wins now," James said. "They try to kill us and talk trash about us now ... When we get our guys back, it's going to be a different story."
One of those guys may be coming back Saturday.
Larry Hughes practiced Friday for the first time in weeks and is listed as questionable. He has been out since Nov. 4 with a leg injury.
Cleveland, though, is still without veteran forward Donyell Marshall (sprained wrist), and Anderson Varejao won't return until next week after his contract holdout recently came to an end.
"We can win games, but obviously we're going to have to get some bodies healthy for us to be able to get back to where we were at the end of last year," Cavs coach Mike Brown said after Wednesday's 105-86 loss at Washington.
A meeting with the Bobcats (6-11) could help solve the Cavaliers' problems. Cleveland has won nine of 11 games all-time against Charlotte, which is in the midst of a seven-game slide that has derailed the team's best start in franchise history.
The Bobcats were 6-4 before the skid, setting a franchise record for the latest in a season the team had been over .500.
Charlotte lost its third consecutive home game on Wednesday, blowing a seven-point fourth-quarter lead to fall 91-82 against Chicago. The Bobcats went 6-for-26 from 3-point range, and center Emeka Okafor took only seven shots.
"We don't need 26 3-point shots. We need to try to get to the rim," Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said. "We don't need the jumpers. We need to be trying to get the ball inside to Emeka even more."
Okafor has been limited to 10 points in back-to-back games, totaling only 13 rebounds in those contests despite averaging 11.9 this season. He's scoring a career-low 12.9 points per game despite shooting a career-best 53.5 percent from the field.
Despite their struggles against the Cavaliers, the Bobcats won both of their home games against them last season for their first two wins against Cleveland.
Gerald Wallace had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots as Charlotte earned a season series split with a 108-100 overtime victory at Bobcats Arena on March 20 when these teams last met.
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