Cavs host Celtics with chance to go 5-0
The only time LeBron James started a season 5-0 in his decorated career, the year ended with James hoisting both his first Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Finals MVP award. James would be just fine if history repeated itself this year.
The Cavs are 4-0 for the first time since 2000, when James was a sophomore in high school and not yet driving. The only other time he has been 5-0 was 2011-12 when the Heat went on to sweep the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals.
The Cavs have the chance to move to 5-0 Thursday for the first time since the 1976-77 season when they started 8-0. That season ended with a first-round exit in the playoffs. The defending NBA champs are aiming much higher.
The Cavs are one of five unbeaten teams remaining despite not playing well for a full four quarters yet. Their defense abandoned them in Tuesday's 128-120 win over the Houston Rockets, something coach Tyronn Lue said he didn't mind because of the frenetic pace at which the Rockets play.
Veteran wing Mike Dunleavy broke out a little bit against the Rockets with a pair of 3-pointers after he struggled to make open 3s through the first few games. Dunleavy missed six of his first eight 3-pointers through the Cavs' first three games.
“It's a long season. It's just been a few games,” said Dunleavy, who was acquired from Chicago over the summer when the Bulls needed to clear cap space to sign Dwyane Wade. “You always feel better when you're knocking down shots, especially with this group. It's a long year. There will be some ups and downs, some nights where you make everything and some nights you can't make anything. Just gotta roll with it.”
The Celtics are battling a slew of early-season injuries. They could be without Al Horford and Jae Crowder Thursday in what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals. Horford's arrival in Boston is expected to push the Celtics into the conference's elite, but he entered the league's concussion protocol Wednesday and missed the Celtics' win against the Chicago Bulls after he was hit in the head during Monday's practice. Symptoms of a concussion didn't present until Tuesday practice.
Crowder sprained his ankle in the second quarter of Wednesday's win and did not return. His status for Thursday remains unclear. But the Celtics received a boost with the return of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, who is battling shoulder problems and wasn't expected to play against the Bulls. But he returned after receiving a cortisone shot, while Smart had seven points and six turnovers in his season debut after missing the first three games to an ankle injury.
Amir Johnson scored 23 points to beat the Bulls, including his first four 3-pointers of the season.
“I was going crazy,” Smart said of watching Johnson. “Whatever he ate or drank (Tuesday) night, whatever he did, I want some of it.”