LeBron James’ return to Cleveland on Wednesday ended up being much more than tribute to the best player in the franchise’s history. It also ended up being a great basketball game, perhaps the best of the Cavs’ young season.
The Lakers’ 109-105 win over the Cavs featured 20 lead changes. It was tied at 13 different points. Cleveland led by as many as nine in the second half before LeBron — who else — got the Lakers back in it by scoring or assisting on an 11-0 Lakers run in the fourth quarter. Two James free throws with 22.9 seconds to go put the Lakers up by three.
And then the Cavs had a chance to tie it, but Kyle Korver missed an open three-pointer with 16.7 seconds to go, the Lakers made their free throws and sent the Cavs to 2-14 on the season.
Cedi Osman led the Cavs with 21 points, 15 of which came on three-pointers. Jordan Clarkson added 20 points off the bench and Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 15 rebounds. James finished with a game-high 32 points to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The Cavs played a video tribute to James in the first quarter and James received loud cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd. But, fittingly with James back, the crowd was more into a game that they had been at any point this season. Until the Lakers clinched it late, the the crowd was on its feet, cheering for the Cavs, not James, although there was no real hostility towards James.
For one night, with James back, basketball was exciting in Cleveland again. Even though the Cavs lost, that is progress for them in a season that has not gone as planned.
The Cavs next play on Friday in Philadelphia against the 76ers. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.