It was exactly one year ago to the day when LeBron James began his second stint in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. On Oct. 30, 2014, Cleveland was the place to be. The city was electric in anticipation of the Cavs’ home opener against the New York Knicks, and the most hyped team in Cleveland history was set to take the floor. Then the game happened.
The Cavs lost last season’s home opener to the Knicks 95-90 in what was a deflating cap to a landmark day in Cleveland’s sports history. While last season’s opener was a staggering disappointment, what followed was a season of thrilling basketball. The Cavs played their way within two victories of an NBA Championship, while the Knicks finished last season with the second worst record in the NBA (17-65).
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, we didn’t start the season home this year,” Cavs head coach David Blatt said. “We already had two games against two strong teams under our belt. I just think in general, the beginning of this season has been much different to the beginning of last season because of the novelty and the excitement and the incredible enthusiasm that came along with the new Cavs team, and with LeBron coming back and Kevin (Love) signing and so many of the exciting things that happened to the Cavaliers.
“I feel like we’ve gone about our business in a normal fashion this year, and we’ve sort of stressed that. We didn’t want to start at a peak and then perhaps fall off very quickly, which is what happened last year. We wanted to be, and have been, very even keel and approached our day-to-day in a good professional way.”
Determined not to let last season’s letdown in the opener repeat this season, the Cavs dominated the Miami Heat en route to a 102-92 victory Friday night. James led Cleveland (2-1) with 29 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“Obviously, we’re a better team than we were in last year’s home opener,” James said. “We play better basketball. We share the ball. We move the ball from side to side.
“Defensively, we communicate. We fly around to help one another. We know who we are as a basketball team. Last year, we didn’t know who we were — We were trying to figure that out.”
Winning is a habit the Cavaliers have become accustomed to. Dating back to Jan. 19 of last season, the Cavs have won 21 of their last 22 regular season games at The Q. The Cavs didn’t have many positive nights in the four years prior to the acquisition of Love and James’ return. With exceptional players like Love, who finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against Miami, winning is a result.
The Q crowd serenaded James with MVP chants as he exited the game with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. At the time of his exit, Cleveland led Miami 99-83 and the Cavs were able to clear the bench. When the first half ended, the lopsided result was unexpected.
Locked in a close contest for much of the first half, the Cavs held a slim 47-42 lead at halftime. The third quarter was when the Cavs made their move. Leading 60-57 with 4:47 remaining in the third quarter, Love knocked down back-to-back three-pointers on the Cavs’ next two possessions to put Cleveland up seven. Love totaled 10 points in the third quarter and by the time the period ended, Cleveland secured a 76-67 lead.
The Cavs opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run that gave Cleveland an 88-69 lead 6:58 to play.
“It’s the home opener and our fans haven’t seen it since the Finals in a real game that mattered,” James said. “For them to come out and show their support, that’s the least we can do is go out and play as hard as we did tonight and get them that win.”
Friday’s matchup was the first of three regular season contests between the Cavs and Heat.
“I hope that they’re less than they were last year,” Blatt said regarding the additional buzz when the Cavs and Heat meet. “I thought that and those conditions had an impact on the games, and it wasn’t necessarily a good one from our perspective. There was such a buzz, naturally by the way, and so many stories around the game and behind the game.
“I never felt like we were just playing the game, and that’s what we need to do despite the fact that there’s history obviously. A year has gone by. A year has passed.”
Dwyane Wade led the Heat (1-1) with 25 points, four rebounds and three assists. Chris Bosh added 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. James, who is 10-0 at home when facing his former team, expounded on his relationship with both players.
“It’s always great playing against my former teammates, Wade and Bosh,” James said. “Those guys are like my brothers.”
The atmosphere in The Q wasn’t as electric as last year’s season opener, but it was vibrant nonetheless. The Cavs attempt to get win number three Monday in Philadelphia against the 76ers.
POSTED 10/30/2015 23:57