Cavaliers, James point toward meeting with Nets (Oct 25, 2017)
NEW YORK -- Starting LeBron James at point guard resulted in a victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.
The Cavaliers will see if they can produce another win with James at point guard Wednesday when they visit the Brooklyn Nets.
On Tuesday, the Cavaliers improved to 3-1 when James scored 34 points and handed out 13 assists during a 119-112 victory over the visiting Chicago Bulls. Although James often serves as a ball-handler, it was believed to be the first time he was listed at starting point guard since 2012 with the Miami Heat.
"I'm looking for my guys a little bit more (when) starting at the point, especially in transition, I'm being more of a precise, precision passer and I'm not kinda full speed ahead in transition," James said. "I'm kinda looking at what's going on and getting my guys the ball, but for me, I just try to stay in attack mode when need be and if I see the hot hand start going for my guys and getting them the ball."
Derrick Rose started Cleveland's first two games at point guard, wins over Boston and at Milwaukee. By the third game, Jose Calderon was starting at point guard when Rose sprained his left ankle.
Rose didn't play Tuesday and Calderon originally was projected to start. By Tuesday morning, coach Tyronn Lue opted to use James at the point guard to give Cleveland a bigger lineup. With Rose out again Wednesday, he intends on using the same alignment Wednesday.
Calderon started Saturday in Cleveland's 114-93 loss to Orlando, playing 14 minutes and scoring two points.
Cleveland's lineup switch impacted others.
Tristan Thompson was the starting center, and he played 24 minutes. Kevin Love moved from center to forward and totaled 20 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. The other component to the lineup change involved moving Dwyane Wade to a reserve role. The veteran guard contributed 11 points in 19 minutes, shooting 5-for-7 from the field after making 28 percent in his previous three games.
Although they won, the Cavaliers didn't get a lead until the third quarter and were forced to rally from a 14-point deficit.
"Defensively we've got to get better," Lue said. "We play teams like this that move around a lot, playing hard, younger guys, we've got to do a better job of respecting these guys. Until we do, we're going to get off to slow starts and be in dog fights every single night. We can't continue to start games the way we've been starting them."
James is unbeaten in his last four games against the Nets and is 32-16 against them in the regular season. He is averaging 26.7 points and 7.4 assists in those contests.
James totaled 36 points in his last visit to Brooklyn on Jan. 6. Five Nets who have seen minutes this season (Trevor Booker, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) faced James in his last visit, which ended with a 116-108 Cleveland win.
The Nets are 2-2 with the wins coming at home and the losses occurring on the road. Brooklyn is the first team since 1985-86 to score at least 115 points in its first four games.
Brooklyn won its first home games over the Magic and the Hawks but blew multiple 12-point leads Tuesday in a 125-121 loss at Orlando.
Point guard D'Angelo Russell led the Nets with 29 points but contributed only one assist to the Nets' total of 21.
"I think it's a team issue," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We got to move the ball better. It's too much one-on-one. We got to move it and have better player movement, but I think that was part of the problem at the end of the game."
The Nets shot 41.7 percent from the floor but made only 32 percent in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn also missed four 3-point attempts in the final 36 seconds.
"We were close," Russell said. "We kind of gave it to them."
Another problem area for the Nets is fouling. The Nets are allowing opponents to shoot 31 free throws per game after allowing 40 trips to the line Tuesday.
"We had opportunities," Atkinson said after his team allowed Orlando's Aaron Gordon to score 41 points. "We missed a lot of open looks. But the big story of the game was putting them on the free-throw line 40 times. You can't do that."