The revamped Cleveland Cavaliers had quite the first outing together, pulling away from and cruising to a 121-99 victory over the Boston Celtics in front of a sold-out crowd at TD Garden Sunday, but before heading to the weeklong break for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, there is one more game to be played.
Tonight, the Cavaliers will wrap up the pre-All-Star Game portion of the schedule when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and Cleveland’s on-court leader, LeBron James, wants to see a continuation of the performance put on in Boston.
“Just continue to build off last game,” James said. “I think our effort and our attention to detail was really high. You want to try to continue that going into tonight.”
PHOTOS: LeBron James, new-look Cleveland Cavaliers make statement in win over Boston Celtics
In addition to James’ 24-point, 10-assist showing against the Celtics, the Cavaliers got double-digit performances from forward Cedi Osman (12 points), point guards Jordan Clarkson (17) and George Hill (12), shooting guards J.R. Smith and Rodney Hood (15 each) and reserve forward Jeff Green (10).
Clarkson and Hood each made three three-pointers in their Cavaliers’ debut, while Hood knocked down two shots from long distance.
“There’s going to be an adjustment period, and it’s going to take a little bit for us to be clicking on all cylinders,” James said.
“I know we had a really good game in Boston, but there’s some things we need to work on still and are going to need to work on in order for us to be a really, really good team. Tonight is another opportunity for us to get better.”
With point guard Kyrie Irving now a member of the Boston Celtics and power forward Kevin Love on the shelf for at least another month with a broken bone in his left hand, “The Big Three” the Cavaliers put together in the summer of 2014 is now down to one, James.
But to James, having to carry a heavier burden while teammates adjust to new surroundings and players is all a part of the process.
“It doesn’t change for me,” James said. “My approach doesn’t change. I’ve still got to lead. I’ve still got to perform, and do it in all facets of the game. I have no problem with that. I love taking the light off of my teammates and all they have to worry about is going out and playing. I don’t mind that at all.”
The Cavaliers were struggling mightily as the NBA trade deadline approached last Thursday, and general manager Koby Altman recognized a need for a change.
The Cavaliers made three deals in the final hours that saw six players (guards Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade and forwards Channing Frye and Jae Crowder) and a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft get dealt in exchange for Clarkson, Hood, Hill and forward Larry Nance Jr., as well as a future selection.
“It takes a special locker room to be able to do that, and we have one,” James said of responding to the trades.
“I think it’s pretty cool, man. We’re here for one reason, and that’s to compete for a championship, but at the end of the day, the game in-between the game is always special as well. Getting to know your teammates over the course of the season, the bus rides and the plane rides and the dinners that we have and things of that nature, that always helps.”