LeBron James sat out the last week of the regular season because the Cleveland Cavaliers wanted him well rested for a possible championship playoff run. James rewarded their decision with 24 points, six rebounds and four blocks in Cleveland’s 96-83 win over the Chicago Bulls in a first-round opener on April 17 in Cleveland.
 
Cleveland also welcomed back Shaquille O’Neal, who missed the last 23 games of the regular season with a thumb injury. O’Neal played well in his return, scoring 12 points and adding three blocks. James and O’Neal hooked up for a couple of crowd-pleasing exciting plays as Cleveland jumped out to a 22-point lead.
 
Led by Derrick Rose, Chicago cut that lead to seven before being outscored by Cleveland 16-10 over the remaining 6:20 of the game. Rose was spectacular, scoring 28 points with 10 rebounds, seven assists and a steal. His opening game performance was similar to his first playoff game last year against Boston when he exploded for 36 points and 11 assists.
 
Despite Rose’s performance, it was Cleveland who shined. Cleveland is a favorite to win the NBA championship this season, and backed up those predictions by out-rebounding Chicago, 50-38. Ex-Washington Wizard Antawn Jamison also performed well, scoring 15 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO