Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue era got off to a rocky start on Saturday as LeBron James and the Cavaliers were beaten 96-83 on their home floor by NBA Central Division rivals Chicago.
Any energy boost for James and the Cavs in their first game since head coach David Blatt was abruptly sacked on Friday – to be replaced by associate coach Lue – was quickly snuffed out by the Bulls, who scored the last 13 points of the opening quarter to take a 21-14 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Cavaliers shot 37.2 percent from the floor and made just nine of 22 from the free-throw line – and were booed by their home crowd.
James scored 16 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, and with 13 rebounds and nine assists fell one assist shy of his first triple-double of the season.
It wasn’t enough to get the Cavs out of the hole they had dug.
“I thought guys got open shots,” Lue said. “We just didn’t make them.”
Lue said the Cavs couldn’t cope with the faster-paced style he wants to institute, which he believes will make better use of James and Kyrie Irving.
“I don’t think we’re in good enough shape,” Lue said. “I think early, we wanted to push it, we wanted to open the floor and I think we came out and did that and then I think we just dropped off the map. I think we got tired.”
“Ky wanted to come out early, Kevin (Love) wanted to come out early. I just don’t think we’re in good enough shape right now to play in the style that we want to play.”
The defeat capped a tumultuous 24 hours in Cleveland, where Blatt became the first coach to be fired from a team leading its conference.
James insisted he had no role in the dismissal of Blatt, who had guided the Cavs to last season’s NBA Finals where they fell in six games to the Golden State Warriors.
But the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player indicated he agreed with general manger David Griffin’s assessment that the Cavaliers lacked the cohesion and spirit needed for a title run.
Lue met with players early Saturday to talk about changing their style, but cautioned that improvement wouldn’t be immediate.
James agreed, but wasn’t downcast.
“It was a tough day for our players, coaching staff and our organisation,” he said. “And it’s a tough game to come in and play.
“But I think if we play as hard as we did tonight, then we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win every night.”
LIN LEADS HORNETS OVER KNICKS
Guards Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker scored 26 points apiece to lift the Charlotte Hornets to a 97-84 victory over the New York Knicks – a second straight win for a Hornets team that rallied to beat Orlando in overtime on Friday.
Lin added five rebounds and five assists, delivering the kind of energetic drives to the basket and jump shots that saw him shoot to prominence while with the Knicks in 2012 – when New York fans were mesmerized by “Lin-sanity”.
Lin scored 11 of his 26 points in the third quarter, when Charlotte seized a 21-point lead.
He and Walker were a combined 19-of-19 from the free-throw line, Lin making all 10 of his foul shots and Walker all nine of his.
The win was especially impressive because the Hornets were without four injured regulars: guards Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb, and centres Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller.