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Cleveland Cavaliers' bench 'out of rhythm' ever since Tristan Thompson's return

From John Schuhmann and NBA media reports

The Cleveland Cavaliers have the most improved bench in the league.

After ranking 14th in *aggregate bench NetRtg last season (minus-1.3), the Cavs rank fourth this season (plus-6.1). In 2016-17, they were 16.2 points per 100 possessions better with LeBron James on the floor than they were with him off the floor, when they were outscored by 8.5 per 100. In ’17-18, they’ve been just 2.0 points per 100 possessions better with James on the floor and have outscored their opponents when he’s been on the bench.

* Aggregate bench NetRtg = Pace-adjusted +/- for all reserves, weighted by minutes played.

But recently, the effectiveness of the Cavs’ bench has suffered, and the drop coincides with the return of Tristan Thompson from a calf injury. Since Thompson’s return on Dec. 12, the Cavs rank 19th in aggregate bench NetRtg at minus-2.7.

The Akron Beacon Journal‘s Marla Ridenour spoke with Dwyane Wade about the disruption to the reserves’ chemistry:

“We’re out of rhythm,” Wade said. “We had a flow going, but then things changed a little bit. Tristan came back and then the lineup was different. And you try to figure out your game. So we’re out of sorts a little bit, we’re out of rhythm and we gotta find it back. We will.”

The Cavs are 19-4 since Nov. 11, but they hadn’t lost back-to-back games since Nov. 1, when they dropped their fourth in a row. They visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday to conclude a three-game road trip. After a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, a five-city swing starts Wednesday in Boston.

Thomas seems close to returning, although his integration in place of Jose Calderon might be more seamless than what has happened with Thompson.

“Sometimes, when you’re winning as much as you’re winning, you have slippage. We’ve had some slippage and we’ve got to figure it out a way to nip it in the bud before it becomes ‘We’re in a rut, and we’ve got to get ourselves back out of it,’ ” Wade said. “We’ve got a few days off here to watch film and think about what we’ve done in these last two games that wasn’t as successful and how to get back on track. Our goal is not to lose too many times. We definitely gotta get back and not lose three in a row.”

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