Opening night in Cleveland was a disaster for the Cavaliers, and Friday’s follow-up in Chicago was certainly no masterpiece.
But LeBron James bounced back in a big way, and his game-high 36 points helped his team come away with a hard-fought 114-108 victory over the Bulls that required an overtime session before it was decided.
These are the two teams that are expected to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals when all is said and done, and the depth in place on each respective roster is a main reason why. On a night where starters Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters struggled offensively for Cleveland by combining to shoot just 14-of-44 from the field, Tristan Thompson turned in a huge performance that saw him finish with 16 points and 13 rebounds, 12 of which came on the offensive end of the floor — not bad from a timing perspective, with the deadline to complete a contract extension looming just an hour or so after this game was finished.
On Chicago’s side, it was the role players who were huge for the majority of the night. Derrick Rose suffered an ankle sprain that isn’t expected to linger, but was one that kept him out of action for the entire fourth quarter and overtime period. It was guys like Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell who put in important performances instead.
There’s still plenty to be worked out for the Cavaliers; the rotations were odd at times as they were on opening night, and the offensive sets continued to lack cohesiveness, with plays often breaking down after the first option had been exhausted. But it was a big road victory against what should be their staunchest opponent in the East, and that’s something that can be built upon as the team comes together.