The Cleveland Cavaliers visited the United Center Tuesday night to face the Chicago Bulls in the NBA’s opening night of the 2015/2016 season. Chicago came away with the victory 97-95. Nikola Mirotic lead the Bulls with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Derrick Rose contributed with 18 points and 5 assists, but only on 8-22 shooting. LeBron James lead the Cavs with a double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while dishing out 5 assists. Mo Williams and Kevin Love contributed with 19 and 18 respectively. Here’s a few things to take away from game 1 of 82:
David Blatt managing LeBron’s minutes this season
LeBron played an average of 36 minutes per game last season, a career low, but David Blatt wants that number even lower this season to keep LeBron fresh for the playoffs. Tuesday night, LeBron played 36 minutes, second only to Mo Williams who played 37. Blatt took LeBron out of the game sporadically, giving him breaks through the first three quarters, which resulted in a fresh LeBron in the fourth. This will probably become a trend as the season goes on.
Something to take notice on early in the season: Every time LeBron came out of the game he was caught lying on the ground, seemingly resting his back (had an anti-inflammatory shot in his back two weeks ago). Richard Jefferson was usually LeBron’s substitute while he rested (more on Jefferson later on).
2. It’s as if Mo Williams never left Cleveland.
Mo Williams was in a groove right from the tip, exhibiting chemistry early on with LeBron on a give and go cut to the basket. Williams finished the game with 19 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds on 7-15 shooting, filling in nicely for injured all-star point guard Kyrie Irving. Williams created early offense for the Cavaliers with 10 points in the first half.
When things got stagnant on offense Williams was there to create a shot for himself, or his teammates. The Cavaliers offense was noticeably less involved when Williams went to the bench and backup Matthew Dellavedova came in the game, although he did play decently well in 20 minutes of action, hitting two threes. The only knock on Williams was, and has always been his defense. He let Rose blow by him on numerous occasions Tuesday night.
Once Irving comes back, in what looks to be sometime in December, Williams will serve as a great backup, bringing an offensive punch to the second group. These two could also see quick spurts together on the court, which would cause chaos for opposing defenses, but would also be a defensive liability for the Cavs, so it won’t happen for long stretches. But when they do play together, watch out, because these two can both get hot quick.
3. Kevin Love’s involvement in the offense.
Love finished with a solid 18 points on the night, but most of those points came late on in the 4th quarter when the Cavs were down, and Love hit two big threes to bring the Cavaliers within a few points. But early on in the game it didn’t seem as if Love was being incorporated in the offense very well. Of course it’s still a work in progress and it’s only game 1 of the season, so there shouldn’t be anything to be worried about.
Love did however exhibit his excellent passing skills early on in the game when he got the ball and was able to feed Timofey Mozgov in the post for a few easy buckets. Mozgov returned the favor later on in the game with a nice pass to Love on a back door cut. One positive early on is the chemistry between the two starting big men.
4. Offense looked to be stagnant at times.
The Cavs started off hot, shooting 5-7 to begin the game, but then cooled off by only hitting 2 of their next 15 shots. The offense seemed to slow down when LeBron was out of the game, although in the third quarter the team made a comeback to tie the game at 71 with LeBron on the bench. Mo Williams was able to get things going here and there, but overall the ball didn’t move well on offense.
The Cavaliers held the ball until the end of the shot clock and took a terrible shot more than a few times. In the 4th quarter they even had back to back possessions resulting in 24 second violations, showing some rust and miscommunication between teammates.
5. Tristan Thompson worth $82 million?
Tristan Thompson’s stat line in 24 minutes: 2 points, 12 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 fouls on 1-4 shooting from the field. Besides racking up a few rebounds late in the game to make his stat line look better, Thompson was pretty ineffective in his first game back with the team.
Did his performance look like a good one for someone who is making $82 million over 5 years? In all honesty, no. But, he should be cut some slack. Thompson has had less than a week of practice with his teammates and did not play in a single pre season game, so of course he’s expected to be a little rusty.
Fans may jump on him early on for demanding such a lucrative contract, and not playing to that level, but to that I say, give it some time. The season is one game old, and nobody really played well for the Cavaliers Tuesday night, including Thompson.
6. Richard Jefferson: Best backup LeBron has ever had?
10 points on 4-7 shooting in just 16 minutes can be considered a win when it comes to the guy backing up The King. Richard Jefferson looked good Tuesday night as he knocked down 2-4 threes and had 2 more easy layups against the Chicago Bulls. Coming in for LeBron whenever Blatt determined he needed rest, Jefferson had what can be considered a great first game as a Cavalier.
At the end of the season, along with Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson could be considered as one of the best under the radar signings of the NBA season. Jefferson shot 43% from three last season with the Dallas Mavericks, and his experience, and shooting could definitely be used with the Cavs this season. Jefferson looks like he’ll a solid contributor this season as LeBron’s backup at the small forward position.
Game one goes down as a loss, so the best Cleveland can now finish on the season is 81-1. Realistically that won’t happen, but there are good and bad things to take away from game one. The Cavaliers travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies Wednesday night.
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