LeBron James leads revamped Cleveland Cavaliers line-up over Chicago Bulls
Four-time MVP moved to point guard as Cavs coach Tyronn Lue shuffles his line-up for 119-112 NBA victory
LeBron James scored 34 points and passed out 13 assists to spark a revamped Cleveland Cavaliers line-up to a 119-112 NBA victory over visiting Chicago.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James, whose 13-of-20 shooting included four three-point baskets, was shifted to point guard as Cavs coach Tyronn Lue juggled his line-up in moving guard Dwyane Wade into a reserve role.
“When he’s hitting threes you have to give up something with him,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We did a decent job contesting his shots. A lot of that has to do with you’re playing against the best player on the planet.”
While they struggled early, particularly defensively, the Cavaliers (3-1) came together to snap a five-game losing streak in meetings with the Bulls (0-3).
James was moved from forward to point guard as Wade, his former teammate on two NBA championship teams in Miami who joined the Cavs after playing in Chicago last season, was benched at his own request.
J.R. Smith moved back into the starting backcourt with James while the frontline saw Kevin Love moved from centre to forward with Jae Crowder and Tristan Thompson took over in the middle.
The line-up move came in part because the Cavs are without Derrick Rose due to a sprained left ankle and Isaiah Thomas with a right hip injury likely to keep him out for another two months.
Love added 20 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland while Wade, who asked for the bench role after struggling as a starter, scored 11 off the bench in only his 12th game as a reserve in 919 games over 15 NBA seasons.
Justin Holiday led the Bulls with 25 points while 20-year-old Finnish rookie forward Lauri Markkanen scored 19 and became the first rookie in NBA history with 10 three-point baskets in his first three games.
Three nights after surrendering 17 three-pointers in a loss to Orlando, the Cavs allowed Chicago 17 three-pointers but a 46-34 edge in bench scoring aided the Cavs’ win.
“Thank God for our bench, which was great,” Lue said. “But we’ve got to be better – 17 threes again where guys are just looking at us, staring us down and raising for shots. We didn’t learn our lesson.”