LeBron James got a warm welcome before the game. He got another standing ovation during the game. And he got favorable officiating late.
Just like old times in Cleveland.
LeBron returned with the Lakers and escaped with a 109-105 win over the Cavaliers on Wednesday. With 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, he did all he could to top his old team. But an odd call also benefited Los Angeles.
With the Lakers up two late, LeBron missed a jumper, and the rebound went out of bounds. Officials ruled it Los Angeles ball with 22.9 seconds left. Per the NBA’s new offensive-rebound shot-clock rule, the shot clock goes to 14 seconds “after the offensive team gets possession of the ball after it goes out of bounds immediately following a missed field goal or free throw that hit the rim.” That seemed to apply here. Yet, the Lakers inbounded with the shot clock off, so the Cavs were forced to foul.
Ultimately, I’m not convinced it mattered, because LeBron split from the line. Is there a huge difference in win expectancy between the Cavaliers getting the ball down three with 19.6 seconds left (what actually happened) and defending down two with 22.9 seconds left and 14 seconds on the shot clock (what probably should have happened)? It seems not.
Besides, this game was more about sentimentality than result, anyway. Sure, a win over LeBron would have been satisfying during a lost season. But Cavaliers fans settled for a nice ovation to LeBron during intros and another with his tribute video:
This game was far closer than 2010, when LeBron returned to Cleveland with the Heat and routed the Cavs. This game was also far, far, far tamer.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, it seems everyone is happier to walk away with limited drama.