For LeBron and the Cavs, this was more like it
Random observations on the Cavaliers’ big 114-108 road win over the Chicago Bulls in overtime Friday:
1. LeBron James scored 36 points. He still needs to work on his ball-handling. Only one of those sentences is true.
2. This was the James everyone expected. Funny, but I had this thought before the game: "I bet LeBron plays better away from all the hype of being back home. I bet he’s glad to get out of Cleveland for a night. I bet he goes for 40." I was only four points off.
3. Yes, those are actual conversations I sometimes have with myself.
4. Interestingly, the back issue that was troubling James earlier in training camp remains a problem. A source said LeBron is playing at "85-90 percent, tops." The issue appears to be robbing him of his explosiveness and lift. The Cavs don’t play again until Tuesday at Portland. The time off/rest is expected to help James’ significantly.
5. Anyway, back to the game. I’m not even sure LeBron was the absolute biggest difference in this game. LeBron was huge, no doubt. But could you really say he was bigger than Tristan Thompson?
6. Consider that Thompson tied a team record with 12 offensive rebounds, including FOUR big ones in the OT. For the game, Thompson finished with 16 points and 13 boards. Yes, he grabbed 13 rebounds, and 12 of them came on his own teammates’ misses. One was a putback two-handed dunk in overtime that basically put the Bulls away for good.
7. Simply put, Tristan Thompson saved the Cavs (1-1).
8. This was also a big win on the road against a Bulls team that’s expected to contend for the East title. It was a Central Division win, too. The Bulls lost Derrick Rose to a sprained ankle in the third quarter. He was remarkable, scoring 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting. That was in just 25 minutes. But interestingly, it wasn’t until Rose left that the Bulls made a major game of it.
9. For the Cavs, James and Thompson were just two of the major players on a night full of them. Kyrie Irving scored 23 points despite spending much of the night in foul trouble. He struggled shooting (6-of-17) but made some big plays, some smart plays, some winning plays.
10. Kevin Love also couldn’t hit a shot, fumbling his way to 5-of-17 from the field. But that was OK, because he more than made up for it in other areas. Love out-hustled and out-muscled the Bulls’ physical frontcourt of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, grabbing a game-high 16 rebounds. He also finished with 16 points and threw some terrific outlet passes that led to easy scores.
11. In one sequence, the Cavs went 80 feet in two passes. Love grabbed a defensive rebound, tossed it to LeBron, who quickly zipped it ahead to Dion Waiters. Layup. As FOX Sports Ohio color analyst Austin Carr said, "Basketball is a beautiful game when the ball does not touch the floor."
12. Overall, the Cavs trusted the pass. That is who new coach David Blatt would like them to be.
13. Speaking of Blatt, this was his first ever NBA victory. Irving lifted the game ball and the players presented it to Blatt after the game.
14. You also have to credit the Cavs for stepping in the passing lanes and getting physical themselves on defense. LeBron really led the way in this department. For most of the night, he was magnificent. He called the win "a huge step. It was something I didn’t know if we had right now."
15. Matthew Dellavedova did a nice job overall off the Cavs bench. The Cavs outscored the Bulls by 15 points with Delly on the floor.
17. The Cavs signed Anderson Varejao (10 points, six rebounds) to a contract extension earlier in the evening. Yahoo Sports and FOX Sporfts 1 insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported the extension to be worth $30 million over three years. The final year is a team option of $10 million, Wojnarowski reported.
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