INDEPENDENCE: Isaiah Thomas denies he has a beef with Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love.

The Cavaliers guard said he was merely asking why Love wasn’t on the bench cheering his teammates while ill against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 20 and why Love didn’t practice the next day, which prompted a heated team meeting Monday that may have fractured some already fragile relationships.

Speaking for the first time in a week, Thomas addressed several issues, from his criticism of the Cavs’ defensive effort as compared to the Boston Celtics to Love’s perceived diss when he bent over to hand Thomas the ball like a kid at the playground in Friday night’s victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Thomas was at times defensive, especially when told that teammates were questioning his shot selection, immediately asking who they were. While the Cavs are 4-5 when he plays, he seems to believe he’s being made the scapegoat for the fact that the Cavs have the second-lowest defensive efficiency rating in the league.

But even with chemistry issues on a dysfunctional team, Thomas said the Cavs haven’t wavered from their goal of playing in the NBA Finals in June. The Cavs (28-19) have lost 10 of their last 14 going into Sunday’s home game against the Detroit Pistons.

“The problems that we have now are the problems that we had in November [and December], that 19 out of [21] wins. We’ve been a lowest five defensive team in the NBA the whole time,” he said after a film session at the Cleveland Clinic Courts.

“So when I come back, it’s my fault now. Which, life isn’t fair, but that’s not fair, bro, at all. I just laugh at those things because I know in this circle and this team, everybody believes in each other and everybody’s in here for it to work and for us to be playing in June. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Thomas, 5-foot-9, downplayed the way Love, 6-10, handed him the ball against the Pacers, saying, “Did you see I was smiling right after?”

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue spoke to Love and concluded the same thing.

“I didn’t think that was a big deal,” Lue said. “Kevin said they just both jumped for the ball, just gave it to him because IT was trying to rebound the basketball. You know, ‘Get out of my area.’ ”

Thomas explained why he confronted Love on Monday after Love missed all but three minutes of the loss to the Thunder with dizziness and a migraine, then was excused from practice the next day.

“There’s no bad blood between me and him. We go back to fifth and sixth grade,” Thomas said of Love, his former AAU teammate. “There’s nothing between me and Kevin Love. At all. I approached him about his situation and it went out of house like it shouldn’t have. But it was not ... what the world was trying to make it, like some type of beef between me and him. It’s never been that and I’ve never been that guy to do that.”

Thomas said the first chance he got to find out what happened with Love was before practice Monday.

“The first thing I said was, ‘That loss was on us as players,’ ” Thomas said. “We ain’t blaming him. We just wanted to know where was the support? That was the only question. Which we found out he was very sick and he went home.

“The only reason why it got blown out and it lasted longer than it was is because he missed practice the next day and it still wasn’t addressed. So once he came back, it was what it was and we kept pushing it. Then it was all over ESPN.”

Even though Love said Tuesday that nearly everyone became a target in the meeting, Thomas said some key issues facing the Cavs weren’t even mentioned.

“It’s bigger than what we talked about on Monday,” he said. “Like we got to be a better defensive team. We got to not be stagnant on offense in the fourth quarter. We got to do those type of things to be a better team overall. I don’t think that talk had anything to make us better. There was questions that wasn’t addressed.”

Traded from the Celtics to the Cavs on Aug. 22 in the Kyrie Irving deal, Thomas is just nine games into his return from a torn labrum in his right hip. He’s trying to learn how to play with LeBron James and Love while finding his rhythm on the fly. He’s used to having the ball on every play and carrying the load for the Celtics and has to adjust to James being the focus.

But teammates questioning his shot selection seemed a touchy subject. Thomas made 13-of-25 (52 percent) from the field in his first two games, and has made 35-of-98 (36 percent) in the seven games since.

“Hey, it’s like that? If they’re worried about my shot selection, they must not have seen me play the last few years. That’s all I can say about that,” Thomas said. “If somebody’s worried about that, what did you trade me here for? To not shoot? To not find my rhythm? To not be Isaiah Thomas? I can’t be anybody else. So whoever’s saying that, I don’t know what I’m here for if I’m not here to score the ball and make plays after being off seven months.”

When asked about that, Lue said: “I think a lot of times it’s his timing. A lot of times he jumps to shoot the ball and then he passes it. That’s going to come from playing.

‘‘He had a long layoff and we need him to be aggressive, need him to score. But shot selection is important. You gotta understand and see where shots are gonna be. We need him to be aggressive and score, but we gotta take good shots.”

Thomas also said he received unfair criticism for his answer to a question after the loss to the Thunder on how the Celtics would have helped defend Russell Westbrook, who burned Thomas repeatedly.

“I told you the difference was we played harder and we trusted each other more on that end. People made it seem like I keep bringing up Boston,” Thomas said. “I’m not comparing this to Boston. I do know practice makes you better and watching film makes you better and we’ve done that last week and a half, two weeks, more than we have this season.”

While fans are suggesting Thomas needs to move to the bench — which Lue said he’s given no thought to — or be traded, Thomas said he will fit in with the Cavs in time.

“I’m in a new system, a totally new player that came in in the middle of January. A player that’s supposed to be very impactful on this organization,” he said.

“That’s not going to work overnight. I don’t care who you are. Those first two games were like, ‘They’re gonna beat the Warriors,’ and then we go on a three-game losing streak and it’s like, ‘Isaiah needs to get on the bench.’

“That’s disrespectful to the work that I put in. You’ve got to eliminate that noise and keep pushing, and that’s all I’ve ever done.

‘‘ At the end of the day I feel like we have a good chance of making this work and we’ll see what happens.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.