The player many people undoubtedly came to see — Cavs forward LeBron James — did not disappoint as the Akron native totaled 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes of play.
James said playing in front of the Central Ohio crowd was special.
“It was great, it was great to be here. It is great to have these fans and for us to put on a show for them,” James said.
Cavaliers coach David Blatt said even though it was an exhibition game, he thought the matchup was played at a high level.
“It’s no big thing, obviously this is just an exhibition game, but certainly a good level game for fans to see,” Blatt said. “We had a full crowd here in Columbus, and the people got their money’s worth and both teams played hard and played pretty well.”
Get their money’s worth they did, as the Cavs weren’t the only ones putting on a show for the sellout crowd of 19,049.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who has missed nearly two full seasons because of multiple knee injuries, exploded for 16 points in the second quarter, bringing the crowd at the Schottenstein to its feet multiple times. He totaled 30 points on 12-18 shooting for the game despite only playing 24 minutes.
James said although Rose dissected the Cavs defense for most of the night, he was happy and unsurprised to see the former Memphis Tiger playing to his ability again.
“I watched him all summer. Watched him in their practices when they were in Vegas, and I payed attention to him over the preseason,” James said. “As a league, as a fan, it is great to have him back and him playing at a high level.”
Blatt said he agreed with his star forward and commented on how tough it is to stop Rose.
“Do you have any ideas? I dont know what to do with that guy,” Blatt said following the game. “He is pretty good. As a basketball person, and as a lover of this sport, it was great to see him back.”
Rose’s point-guard counterpart — the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving — also impressed, as the Duke product finished with a team-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting to go along with seven assists in 39 minutes of play.
Cleveland newcomer and former Minnesota Timberwolves’ player Kevin Love struggled with his shot against the Bulls as he finished 2-for-10 from the field and was the only Cavaliers starter who didn’t score in double figures with just nine points to finish.
Despite Love’s struggles, James said it was good to get extended minutes with Love and Irving for the first time during the preseason.
“We have limited time on the floor, but I think tonight was a good example of what we can do,” James said. “That was the closest to 48 minutes we have played in the preseason. Kyrie played a great game, Kev’s shot was off a little bit, but I think he had a great game with 13 rebounds.”
Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao picked up the slack as he came out firing on all cylinders in the first half. He scored 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting to help boost Cleveland to a 51-49 halftime lead. He finished with 22 points on the night.
Blatt said following the game that he was pleased with how his team performed as a whole.
“What I really liked obviously about tonight was that we had Kevin, Kyrie, LeBron on the floor at the same time,” Blatt said. “We got a fair view of that tonight, and I thought that went pretty well. Overall, I think the Cavaliers are taking strides in the correct direction.”
The Cavaliers are set to play their preseason finale Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies at the FedExForum in Memphis before they are scheduled to begin their regular season at home Oct. 30 against the New York Knicks.