James coughed up a career-high 11 turnovers — including six in the fourth quarter — as the Cavs' 17-point lead after three quarters dwindled to as low as five with 1:44 remaining before they held on for the win, just their second in the past eight games.
"It's a four-interception game for a quarterback with a win," James said. "That's what I think of it."
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue played James for all but the final seven seconds of the fourth quarter — and 40 minutes overall — after Derrick Rose asked to be subbed out to start the final period because of fatigue.
Lue said the workload caught up to James.
"I just think he got tired down the stretch," Lue said. "I think we tried to use him a little too much, and that's on me."
Then the coach offered a rare public criticism of James, albeit after already critiquing himself for putting James in that position.
"He's got to do a better job making some better passes also," Lue said. "He had some passes he normally doesn't make. But when you're tired, fatigued and you're playing throughout the course of the season, it can happen. Even as great as he is, it's capable of happening to anybody."
James owned up to his decision-making mistakes but disagreed with Lue's assessment of how his body was feeling.
"No, I just made some bad decisions," James said. "I was overlooking passes a little bit too much as well. I had two to start the fourth quarter. Jeff Green kind of got held on his post-ups and then my going away, so I got to [be] better with the ball. But I didn't get tired, though."
There have been more than 1,600 triple-double performances since the NBA began tracking individual turnovers in 1977, but James' is only the second that included more than 10 turnovers, joining Jason Kidd, who turned the ball over 14 times while recording 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against the New York Knicks on Nov. 17, 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ironically, earlier in the season, James praised Grambling State's Shakyla Hill for recording just the fourth quadruple-double in Division I women's college basketball history and qualified that there was one stat line that nullified the achievement.
"That's impressive," James said, recalling his reaction when he first heard about Hill's feat. "It doesn't matter what level you at, what type of league you in, male or female, you able to get a quadruple-double in any facet, obviously not with turnovers. She did it with steals."
Cleveland's win, which featured positive developments such as? Tristan Thompson's double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in his return to the starting lineup; a season-high in points (23 on 7-for-13 shooting from 3) and steals (4) for JR Smith; and 14 points in 15 minutes for Rose off the bench as he filled in for Dwyane Wade as he attended to a family emergency, was also marred by a couple of questionable moments involving Kevin Love.
One came when Love removed his warm-up jacket and tossed it onto Green's head as he walked toward center court. Both Love and Green defused the interaction, even though it seemed to catch rookie Cedi Osman off-guard in the replay.
When Green was asked about it in the hallway after the game, he invited reporters to follow him back into the locker room and yelled to Love in front of the entire media contingent covering the game, "You see the s— you started? They think you did that on purpose."
Love deadpanned, "It was. I don't like you, Jeff."
Then the pair laughed it off, and Green exited the building with a smile on his face. Love posted the clip to his Twitter account, tagging Green's handle.
The other eyebrow-raising sequence involving Love came with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter, when he grabbed a defensive rebound and turned around to pass the ball to Isaiah Thomas. Rather than simply handing the ball off and running up the court, the 6-foot-9 Love bent down to present the ball to the 5-foot-9 Thomas in an exaggerated fashion — not dissimilar to a parent bending down to give a gift to a child sitting by the tree on Christmas morning.?
One team source suggested to ESPN that it was a clear sign of Love trying to embarrass Thomas after the point guard was one of the instigators in calling out Love on Monday for leaving Cleveland's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder early last weekend during an explosive team meeting.
"We will take what we can get right now," Love said of the win. "We feel like we still have to continue to put together 48 solid minutes of basketball."