For the first time this preseason, the Cavaliers starting five officially took the floor together. And, at times, it looked like it.
That group of starters might be the most talented quintet in the Conference, but they were expectedly out of synch against Chicago – as the young Bulls jumped ahead and stayed ahead, keeping Cleveland winless in the preseason with the 108-94 win on Tuesday at The Q.
Fans finally got to see LeBron James in the Cavaliers new threads and, like the rest of the squad, the four-time MVP had his share of ups and downs – leading Cleveland with 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, adding five boards and three assists, but committing a game-high eight miscues in the loss.
”I know for me, personally, it was off,” explained LeBron. “I could feel it. (It was) my first action since The Finals, so my timing was a little off and the turnovers I think just trickled down to everybody. So it made everyone’s timing off.”
On the negative side of the ledger, the Cavaliers finished with 22 turnovers that led to 35 Bulls’ points. Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade shot a combined 2-for-19. And Justin Holiday, who Cleveland waived in Training Camp back in 2012, finished with 28 points and 11 boards.
On the positive side, the Cavs second unit was solid in relief – with Iman Shumpert and Jeff Green leading the way, combining to go 7-for-10 from the floor, and Tristan Thompson notching seven points and a team-high 11 boards off the bench.
”I think if we learned anything from the second unit, they went out there and just played hard,” said Kevin Love, who left the contest after banging knees with LeBron midway through the third quarter. “But I think more than anything, just more time spent on the floor with those guys is going to be better for us.”
Among the starters, Derrick Rose followed up with 13 points, going 5-of-9 from the field to go with five boards and five assists, including a gorgeous second quarter alley-oop to Jeff Green, who smashed the right-handed dunk.
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Green was a perfect 3-of-3 in the half, eventually finishing with eight points and three boards.
”D-Rose plays at a great pace, miss or make, he’s getting the ball up the floor fast with pace and speed,” said Coach Lue. “We want him attacking early. Jeff can rebound the basketball, get it off the glass, attack and is able to catch and go get a basket.”
Shumpert, who returned early from a left foot sprain that was supposed to sideline him the rest of the preseason, played with a purpose on Tuesday – going 4-of-5 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from long-range, leading Cleveland’s reserves with 12 points in just over 11 minutes of work.
Along with Justin Holiday’s double-double, the Bulls got solid performances from second-year forward Denzel Valentine, who finished with 14 points, seven boards and a pair of assists, and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who came off Chicago’s bench to go 7-for-12 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from deep, for 18 points and five boards.
The Cavaliers did manage to drill 14 triples in Tuesday’s affair, but the Bulls were one better – going 15-for-41 from deep compared to 14-for-27 by the Wine & Gold.
The next time Tyronn Lue’s squad takes the floor at Quicken Loans Arena, it’ll be to welcome the Boston Celtics to town as the 2017-18 campaign officially tips off. Between now and then, Cleveland travels to Orlando to wrap up the preseason with a Friday night affair against the Magic.
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