There was an uncomfortable hush in The Q when the Wine & Gold got off to another sluggish start at home – trailing the rebuilding young Bulls by double digits through much of the first half.
But behind a sharpshooting LeBron James and Cleveland’s deep bench, the Cavaliers pulled ahead of Chicago in the third period and held them off through the fourth – pulling away for the 119-112 win on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
LeBron continued his early-season dominance – making his first start at guard since returning to Cleveland and leading both squads with 34 points, 13 boards and three steals.
James kept the Cavaliers afloat in the early going, netting 12 of the Cavaliers’ 28 first-quarter points – going 5-of-7 from the floor, including 2-of-2 from long range in the period. The four-time MVP didn’t slow down from there, finishing 13-of-20 from the field overall, 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
After dropping their first contest of the season to Orlando on Saturday night – a game in which they never led – the Wine & Gold struggled out of the gate again on Tuesday. By half, the Bulls had three players in double figures – including former Cavalier Kay Felder – and had already drilled a dozen 3-pointers.
But Cleveland clamped down defensively in the third quarter, holding Chicago to 45-percent shooting and forcing five turnovers.
The Cavs regained the lead early in the fourth period, extending it to 11 with four minutes to play. The Bulls cut it to six – 118-110 – on Jerian Grant’s long 3-pointer with 2:15 to play. But on Cleveland’s next possession, following a pair of big offensive boards by Jae Crowder and JR Smith, LeBron scored on a layup to put the game essentially out of reach.
Kevin Love finished with his third double-double in the first four games, netting 20 points and 12 boards – going 7-for-16 from the floor along with a pair of assists.
The Cavaliers bench was outstanding again on Tuesday night – combining for 46 points, their third straight contest of at least 45. Jeff Green was especially good – tallying 16 points in 24 minutes of work, going 4-of-6 from the floor.
Dwyane Wade, who voluntarily moved to a reserve role, went 5-of-7 from the field for 11 points, while Kyle Korver canned three triples for his 11. Channing Frye added eight points in relief – going 3-of-3 from the floor in just over seven minutes of work.
Jae Crowder was the sixth Cavalier in double figures – adding 11 points and a pair of boards in the win.
Chicago was paced by Justin Holiday, who finished with 25 points – one of seven Bulls in double figures. Impressive rookie Lauri Markkanen chipped in with 19 points – going 7-of-12 from the floor and 5-of-8 from deep – and Jerian Grant doubled up with 12 points and 10 assists in the loss.
After giving up 17 3-pointers to the Magic, Cleveland surrendered another 17 on Tuesday. But the Wine & Gold didn’t’ allow a fastbreak point, made nine more trips to the free-throw line and allowed only 20 points in the final period.
Turning Point— In the past, the start of the third quarter was somewhat of a bugaboo for the Cavaliers, but this season – and specifically on Tuesday night – Tyronn Lue’s squad has been sharp coming out of the halftime locker room.
Cleveland went into half down four, 69-65, but they wasted little time erasing Chicago’s edge – tying the contest on Jae Crowder’s triple less than three minutes in and extending their edge to nine, 81-72, with LeBron capping the Cavs’ 16-3 run to start the second half.
The Bulls would lead just once more the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 771 … regular-season games that LeBron James has played as a Cavalier, tying him with Zydrunas Ilgauksas for most in Cavaliers history. Rounding out the top five all-time are Danny Ferry (723), Bingo Smith (720) and Hot Rod Williams (661).
Quotable – Kevin Love, on the lift Cleveland’s second unit provided in Tuesday’s win …
”I know we’re only four games in now, but Channing [Frye] came in and played exceptionally. Not only him, [but] Jeff [Green], everybody from that second unit came in and gave us big minutes and really got us back into the game going into halftime, and then we fed off that energy.”
Up Next— After holding off the Bulls on Tuesday night at The Q, the Wine & Gold hit the road for a pair – traveling to Brooklyn for the second half of their back-to-back on Wednesday night. After a couple days off, the Cavs head to the Big Easy for a Saturday night showdown with DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. The following night, Cleveland closes out the month of October when Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks come to The Q for the first time this season. The Cavs tip off November with the Pacers at home before a big road meeting with the Wizards on Friday, November 3.