The NBA tipped off the 2015-2016 season with a such a marque matchup, even the President of the United States Barack Obama just had to attend. The Cleveland Cavaliers began defense of their eastern conference title against the team they eliminated in the second round of last years playoffs, the Chicago Bulls.
For the second year in a row, the LeBron James and David Blatt era begins with a loss as the Bulls survived 97-95 on a Jimmy Butler deflection of a Mo Williams inbounds pass to James in the final seconds of the game. The Cavaliers rallied from a 13 point second half deficit and nearly stole a victory on the road to open the season.
LeBron and the Cavaliers got off to a fast start. The wine and gold scored the first six points of the game. Kevin Love will be the answer to the trivia question who scored the first points of the 2015-2016 season. Love’s two handed dunk off a terrific pass from James got the game underway. Love struggled shooting the ball early but finished with 18 points on six of 17 shooting including three of seven from three point territory.
The Cavaliers weren’t at full strength on opening night, Kyrie Irving is still recovering from his dislocated knee cap suffered during game one of last season’s NBA Finals. During the offseason, the Cavaliers added some veteran help for Irving at point guard in Mo Williams, who is in his second go around with the Cavaliers. Williams was very impressive filling for Irving as the starting point guard on opening night. In a game high 37 minutes of action, Williams finished with 19 points on seven of 15 shooting and dished out a team high seven assists.
As for James, coach Blatt kept to his word of limiting his minutes played on opening night. LeBron played 35 minutes and recorded another double double. James lead all scorers with 25 points and hauled in ten rebounds and dished out five assists. James’ troubles at the free throw line from last season carried over into game one of this season. LeBron missed all three of his foul shots on the night. James did make one but it was disallowed because Timofey Mozgov was called for a lane violation.
The other veteran addition in the offseason made a mark in his first game as a member of the wine and gold. Richard Jefferson lead the Cavaliers bench in scoring with ten points in 17 minutes of action. Early foul trouble limited the amount of playing time in his Cleveland debut.
Tristan Thompson did play in the season opener despite missing all of training camp and the preseason in a contract holdout. Thompson’s shot looked rusty as expected, but he was his typical self on the boards. Thompson went one of four from the field for two points but grabbed a game high 12 rebounds.
Despite starting the season with a loss, there were a lot of positive things to take away from the Cavaliers opener. The wine and gold should be one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA this season. The Cavaliers out rebounded Chicago 50 to 47. The Cavaliers can move the ball around and should win the assist battle on most nights. Cleveland doubled up Chicago in assists, 26 to 13. The Cavaliers will block their share of shots this season even though the Bulls won that battle on opening night ten to seven.
Free throw shooting has to improve going forward. The Cavaliers were just ten of 17 for 59 percent from the charity stripe as a team. The Cavaliers will score points from beyond the three point line this season as well. However, the Cavaliers can’t live by the three pointer game in and game out. There will be nights where the Cavaliers will finish in double digits in three pointers made. There will be nights where the three point shot just doesn’t fall. The key for the Cavaliers is to be balanced on offense, that is what will win this team games as the season goes on.
The Cavaliers won’t have much time to think about adjustments from the season opening loss. They play game two of the season on Wednesday night in Memphis against the Grizzlies then come home to Cleveland for their home opener on Friday night against LeBron’s former team, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.