Five quick takes on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 114-109 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at United Center…
1. All things considered, going 3-3 on the season’s longest road trip, which spanned 12 days, should be considered a win. Playing shorthanded in all six games, including have only nine healthy bodies to take on the Bulls, the Cavaliers (40-29) managed to head home in the same playoff position they were when they departed — third place. behind Toronto and Boston.
2. As usual, LeBron James led the way for Cleveland, recording his 15th triple-double of the season, the 70th of his career, with 33 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, adding a steal and two blocked shots in 40 minutes. James shot 15-of-26 from the field and scored or assisted on 11 of Cleveland’s final 13 points when the game was on the line. His assist on a pass to Jordan Clarkson in the left corner for a 3-pointer, on which Clarkson was fouled and converted for a four-point play, with 1:27 to play put the Cavs up, 109-105. “For us to go 3-3 throughout everything as far as the injuries and available guys, I think it was a good trip for us,” James said. Clarkson knew he had to step up. “Well I missed like three shots in a row before that,” he said. “Didn’t have no legs. I seen him (James) driving. It’s a shot I’ve been shooting all season. Just a catch and shoot 3. Just had to make it.”
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3. James had plenty of help, though. Jeff Green played a game-high 43 minutes, a season-high for him, scoring 21 points, on 8-of-14 shooting, and added four rebounds, two assists, one steal and a blocked shot. Clarkson (19 points, 2 rebounds, 6-of-13 shooting, 4-of-9 from deep, 32 minutes off the bench), and rookie center Ante Zizic (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 offensive, 7-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes) all reached double figures.
4. Still, the Cavaliers don’t win this game without the contributions of Jose Calderon. Put back into the starting lineup by coach Tyronn Lue in place of Kyle Korver, who was excused to leave the team to tend to a family emergency, the veteran point guard had nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and a key blocked shot down the stretch in 36 minutes. It should be noted, when Calderon is part of the starting lineup, the Cavaliers are 18-8. When he does not start, Cleveland is 22-21. When Calderon plays 10 minutes or more, the Cavs are 21-10.
5. For the second time this season, Lue did not come out of the locker room because of an undisclosed illness, leaving associate head coach Larry Drew to lead the charges in the final 24 minutes. “I just know that before coming out in the second half, he wasn’t feeling well,” Drew said. “And I thought that there was a chance that he would (eventually) come out, but he just wasn’t well enough to come out so we had to just go on.”