The legend of LeBron James continues to grow.
LeBron became the youngest player in NBA history to score a total of 15,000 points at age 25, surpassing Kobe Bryant's record at age 27. He needed only 3 points to reach the achievement, but was careful to treat Friday evening like any other game, scoring 29 points. The Cleveland Cavaliers would need just about every one of them to help hold off a spirited challenge from a Chicago Bulls team without Derrick Rose, sidelined by an injured wrist.
Playing in the hostile territory of the United Center, the Cavaliers had to overcome some big games from Taj Gibson and James Johnson along with some astonishingly bad ball movement (17 turnovers, all shared among 5 players). They responded with a tough defensive game, forcing one bad shot after another from Chicago, holding the Bulls under 60 points in the final 3 quarters and holding a team under 90 for the first time since their victory in Boston. The Cavs lead by as many as 10, but could never pull away, scoring just 15 points in the 3rd quarter and going the first 5 minutes of the 4th quarter with only two field goals.
Then LeBron re-entered the game. With the Cavs down by 1, he revved the Cleveland offense with some tough long range jumpers, giving the Cavs the energy to close out the game. He scored 13 of Cleveland's final 18 points, including a monster slam dunk off an alley oop pass that perhaps turned the pace of the game around.
With the win, the Cavaliers improve to 55-15, and are less than 3 days away from re-signing beloved center Zyndrunas Ilgauskas, who is back in Cleveland already.
Individual Cavs performances:
Mo Williams: 6-10, 18 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 31 minutes. As a scorer, Mo was pretty darn good tonight. He was an efficient 3-4 from 3-point range, and a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line. But he and Lebron combined for 10 turnovers, and the scoreboard might have looked more grim if the Bulls had turned more of those opportunities into points. But they didn't.
Anthony Parker: 3-10, 2-6 3PM-A, 9 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 23 minutes. Poor Big Anthony. He started the game making two consecutive 3 point plays...and proceeded to brick all but one shot for the rest of the evening. His shots were not forced, either. The Cavs were constantly making kickouts to him for wide open jumpers...and were getting nothing out of them. One of his worst offensive performances all year.
Anderson Varejao: 1-3, 3 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 34 minutes. I love Varejao. And so do the Cavs. So many other fans loathe Andy, calling him a dirty flopper with a bad hairdo. But it's only because they know their players HATE to play against this guy. He will chase loose possessions, he will poke balls away, he will snag rebounds from players, and he will muscle the ball into the basket. And that's why we love him. You have more of an edge with gritty players.
Leon Powe: 2-5, 7 points, 8 rebounds, 19 minutes. Leon saw more playing time tonight, and he made his presence felt on both ends of the floor, going to the basket and reclaiming possessions. He's a big help in that he's one of our better free throw shooters.
Antwan Jamison: 1-4, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 27 minutes. Antwan took very few shots tonight, on account of our guards taking almost all the shots. His defensive game was better than usual tonight, as he drew an offensive foul by sacrificing his body against a very athletic Bull.