June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

LeBron leads the victory dance

CLEVELAND —LeBron James did a little Texas two-step and some hip-hop on the bench and the Cavaliers danced all over the Chicago Bulls.


A 101-87 victory Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena turned into a big party for Cleveland, as James did a little country jig following a hoop by Daniel Gibson early in the fourth quarter, then later exchanged hip-hop moves with rookie teammate Danny Green.


At least one Chicago player took offense at all the antics, which also created some hard feelings among Cleveland opponents last season.


While James was preparing to shoot free throws midway through the fourth period, he had words with Chicago center Joakim Noah, who was on the Bulls’ bench. After making his first free throw, James took several steps toward Noah before Cleveland teammates Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams stepped in front of him.


“It’s not my worry,” said James, who had 23 points, six rebounds and 11 assists. “We got a good win. We have fun when we play the game of basketball. If there’s a problem, we take care of it on the court.


“It’s nothing against the Bulls,” the 24-year-old added. “It’s nothing against Joakim or any of those guys. This is not something that is new. We have fun. We love to play the game of basketball and we have fun doing it. It’s nothing about showboating on a team. That’s not what we do. Everybody’s seen it. It happened all last year.”


James got a technical for the incident, but also managed to get in the final dig against Noah, who had seven points on 2-of-7 shooting and 10 rebounds.


“He was more frustrated about the way he played, maybe, as an individual,” the small forward said. “He didn’t help his team win.”


Noah admitted he was frustrated after the Bulls (7-10), who were playing without Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich, lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.


“It’s frustrating to lose the way we’ve been losing lately,” he said. “That’s really it.


“When you’re losing the way you’re losing and guys are rubbing it in your face, dancing and all that … I have a lot of respect for LeBron. It’s just a frustrating situation.”


The Cavaliers (14-5), who lost to the Bulls 86-85 at The Q on Nov. 5, have now won six of their last seven and 11 of their last 13. In addition to James, Cleveland got 15 points and seven assists from point guard Mo Williams and 15 points off the bench from Gibson.


Toss in nine points and some great hustle plays from J.J. Hickson, 10 points from Anderson Varejao and nine points and seven boards from Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the Cavaliers had more than enough to offset their 17-of-31 shooting from the line.


Gibson not only was 7-of-9 from the field overall, he was 6-of-7 from inside the 3-point arc while showing the ability to score on floaters and pullups off the dribble.


“The one thing I’m seeing from Gib is he’s scoring in a variety of ways,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He’s explosive when he’s scoring. He’s aggressive when he’s scoring. He could be a big-time scorer in this league.”


Rookie power forward Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but he had just four points in the second half. Point guard Derrick Rose had 13 points and seven assists but went just 5-of-16 from the field.


Cleveland, which shot .583 from the field in the first half but led just 47-46 thanks to 11 careless turnovers, did not turn the ball over in the second half. That after the Cavaliers committed eight turnovers in the second quarter alone.


“It was crucial,” James said. “None of us were proud of the way we played in the second quarter. We were more conscious of our effort, taking care of the ball.”


After trailing the entire first half —but never by more than five —the Bulls moved ahead briefly in the third period and were still within three with 5:44 left in the quarter, but Cleveland went on a 14-2 run to go up 15.


With James dancing on the bench, the Cavaliers stretched their lead to 19 early in the fourth on a lob pass from Williams to Jamario Moon.


From that point, the dance party was on, but the Bulls were an unwilling partner.


“It sucks to lose, man,” Noah said. “That’s the toughest thing. We can’t compete for 48 minutes. We’ve got to find a way to win games because this losing thing is not a good look, man, it’s just not. It’s not what anybody in this locker room expected. This losing thing is really frustrating.”


Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 rickn@ohio.net.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.