Daily Confidential

LeBron James had his way with the Chicago Bulls last season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar could face a greater challenge against them on Thursday, facing the Bulls for the first time since they acquired Ben Wallace.

NBA Radio Preview

James averaged 34.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists to lead Cleveland (2-2) to a four-game sweep of Chicago (2-2) last season. Only one of the games was decided by fewer than eight points.

The Bulls employed different defenders such as Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni, but nothing seemed to work against James.

``LeBron was able to get off on us a little, and we didn't do a good job of stopping him,'' said Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich after a 91-72 win by Cleveland on March 5 completed the sweep. ``He's made big plays against us all season.''

Chicago will try to use a combination of Deng and Nocioni again, but the addition of Wallace - a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year - should help cut down on James' penetration to the basket.

However, Bulls coach Scott Skiles does not want his perimeter defenders to rely too much on Wallace lurking behind them.

``That has become an issue already,'' Skiles said. ``We have some lazy perimeter defense and that is not fair. Wallace is very adept at not getting into foul trouble. But, we need to play better perimeter defense.''

James will be trying to shake off a poor effort down the stretch in a 104-95 overtime loss to Atlanta on Tuesday. He made 5-of-11 at the foul line and the Cavaliers went 8-of-18 in the fourth quarter and overtime while blowing a 10-point lead.

``Missed free throws, that was it,'' said James, who scored 34 points. ``That's the only thing that hurt us. We only had 11 turnovers. Eleven turnovers in a ballgame is not a lot. They only had eight points off our turnovers, so it's not the turnovers, we just have to try to figure it out and play for ourselves.''

Cleveland has shot 37 percent from the field in losing its last two games after shooting 46 percent during its 2-0 start.

Guard Larry Hughes, the team's second-leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, believes the Cavs don't need to press to avoid a third straight loss.

``Every game is not a championship series or championship game, so we don't need to put undue pressure on ourselves to go out and do things that we don't need to do,'' Hughes said. ``We have to be patient, be focused and I think we'll be fine.''

Chicago opened a stretch of three straight games against Central Division foes with a 110-85 victory over Milwaukee on Monday. After visiting Cleveland, the Bulls host Indiana on Saturday.

The Bulls squeaked into the playoffs last season despite finishing 4-12 against division opponents - the worst mark in the Central.

``A division win is very important,'' said guard Ben Gordon, who scored 37 points Monday. ``Every time you play someone in the division, it's very important because you might be playing the same team in the postseason.''

Gordon shot just under 37 percent and was held to 14.3 points per game last season against Cleveland.

Bulls rookie Tyrus Thomas, who sat out Monday's game due to the broken nose he suffered in the season opener, practiced Tuesday and could return to action.

Chicago has lost 15 of 18 in Cleveland, including the last five by an average of 17.0 points.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited