LeBron James simply wanted to shrug off a poor debut with his new, old team.
How is this for redemption?
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James scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 114-108 in overtime on Friday night.
The first meeting between two teams expected to challenge each other for supremacy in the Eastern Conference was as tight as advertised, with several swings down the stretch and a superstar carrying his team in the end.
James was at his best after struggling the previous night. He scored eight points in the extra period, and the Cavaliers gave coach David Blatt his first win after opening with a loss at home to New York.
"It was an opportunity to go out and redeem ourselves and I was happy with the outcome," James said.
Derrick Rose scored 20 points for Chicago, but his first meaningful home game in about a year was spoiled by a sprained left ankle and a dominant performance by the Cavaliers’ megastar. Rose, sidelined for most of the past two seasons by knee injuries, came up hobbling in the first half and headed to the locker room in the fourth quarter.
"The gods, they’re testing me right now, man," said Rose, who did not think the injury was serious.
Cleveland rallied from five down in the closing minute of regulation after blowing a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter.
James took over in OT, flipping in a wild reverse layup and scoring Cleveland’s first eight points in the extra period.
The Cavaliers were still clinging to a 106-104 lead after Kirk Hinrich hit two free throws with 46.8 seconds left. But Tristan Thompson iced it moments later with a hard dunk after rebounding James’ jumper to make it a four-point game with 24 seconds left. Thompson tied a franchise record with 12 offensive rebounds.
"It’s a true testament to how hard Tristan works," Kyrie Irving said. "That’s something that he gives us. He gives us energy, and that’s what we want him to do every single night. I know he’s capable of doing it. For us, it just adds another dimension for our team to get more possessions."
James, back with the Cavaliers after leading Miami to two championships, dominated after a rough opener.
He had eight rebounds, four steals and just three turnovers after going 5 of 15 from the floor and coughing the ball up eight times against the Knicks.
Irving scored 23.
Thompson, who was hoping to land a contract extension before the deadline, finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Kevin Love added 16 points and 16 rebounds, and the Cavaliers pounded the Bulls 52-42 on the boards.
For Chicago, Hinrich came on strong down the stretch to finish with 20 points. Pau Gasol scored 15 and Mike Dunleavy Jr. added 14 points.
"They’re a very good team," Hinrich said. "Obviously, they’re as talented as anybody one-two-three. Their bigs are very good at getting little things and complementing their other guys. I know they’re gonna be a tough out, no question."
Cavaliers: Although the terms weren’t clear, Cleveland signed Anderson Varejao to a contract extension on Friday and prevented its center from becoming a free agent this summer. The 32-year-old Varejao, in his 11th season with the Cavaliers, came into Friday’s game with career averages of 7.8 points and 7.8 rebounds.
Bulls: G Jimmy Butler is headed to restricted free agency. While he was hopeful an agreement on a contract extension could be reached before Friday’s deadline, it did not happen. The Bulls will have a chance to match any offer he receives next summer. Butler also missed his second game because of a sprained thumb.
BANGED UP BULL
Chicago’s Taj Gibson was icing his left foot after injuring his ankle trying for a steal in the second half. "I hope it doesn’t blow up on me overnight," he said.
HE SAID IT
Gibson on the Cavaliers’ rebounding advantage: "We got humbled tonight, definitely got humbled."