The Cleveland Cavaliers were happy to get LeBron back after missing some time because of nagging injuries. After going 1-8 without him, their victory over the Chicago Bulls pushed the Cavs to 22-20, where they currently sit as the fifth seed in the East.
James said that he feels the best he’s felt all season, and surely this delights Cavs fans who were itching to see their King return back to the MVP form he displayed during his tenure in Miami. LeBron scored a game-high 26 points on 12-of-23 shooting, and added five rebounds and four assists.
The Cavs are now on a modest three-game winning streak, after sweeping the Los Angeles trip and winning at home against Chicago. What a difference a week makes? Or better yet, what a difference having the four-time league MVP, and two-time NBA champion back in your lineup makes.
Timofey Mozgof was a bright sign for the Cavs, as he imposed his will on the frontcourt of the Bulls. He erupted for 15 points and 15 rebounds, and ended the game with a plus minus of +17.
The Cavs rank 23rd in the NBA in rebounding, so Mozgof’s activity on the boards could be critical to the their hopes of winning a championship. They’re going to be dealing with big-men tandems like the Bulls’ Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, the Wizards’ Marcin Gortat and Nene and the Raptors’ Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, so interior presence will be of extreme importance.
Obviously the bulk of their success will all boil down how LeBron plays. These past few games, he has looked way more engaged and extremely active on both ends of the floor. We’re used to a barrage of SportsCenter highlights of James’ chase down blocks and emphatic dunks. We haven’t seen a bevy of this early in the season and most of it was attributed to his fatigue.
But with the season coming into full form now, James knows that the same lackluster play he displayed in the beginning of his return to Cleveland won’t be enough to galvanize this young and inexperienced group.
LeBron referred to Kyrie and himself as the leaders on the floor in terms of controlling the tempo and what the team does during possessions. James also articulated that he knows that his team can’t stand around and watch as he and Irving take turns with the ball. He stressed that the team must continue to move around and make plays in order to give themselves the best chance to win games.
In my estimation, this team isn’t winning a championship this season. So far, J.R. Smith and Mozgof have been phenomenal acquisitions and have bolstered the roster significantly. Smith seems rejuvenated with a fresh start in Cleveland under the leadership of a champion in LeBron James. Going from a lottery team to one with championship aspirations certainly has affected his psyche in a positive way. But is this enough?
We are still waiting to see the kind of impact Iman Shumpert has on this team. Ideally, they would love for him to be a knockdown shooter who guards the opposing players best wing option.
If it all works out, who knows? It might make things interesting.